Flannery O’Connor’s work A Good Man is Hard to Find stands as one of the most important pieces of literature to come out of the mid-1900s. A work that provides a dim take on the world’s plight, A Good Man is Hard to Find is the kind of work that challenges reader conceptions about the nature and meaning of life. It is also a work fit for literary analysis. It is a work in which character, setting, and genre play an important role in communicating the message that O’Connor is looking to get across.
According to some who study literature, characters are among the most important elements of any story (Abrams). This is mostly because characters serve as the conduit by which the reader interacts with the work. A character provides a picture into the soul of the author, revealing something significant about the author’s point. In this story, The Misfit is one of the most important and interesting characters going. The Misfit sets himself apart by having a detached understanding of the nature of life. Stumbling upon the family after their crash, he organizes the murder. He is at once optimistic and pessimistic about the state of life. In some sense, he wants to reach out to the family, but in another sense, he had an internal force that tells him that life is anything but precious. Using character as a conduit, the author communicates the complexity of life.
Setting refers to many different aspects of where and how the story takes place. It can be the time, location, or era in which a story is communicated. One aspect of setting that is critical to this work is the place, which is the Old South. The family is taking a trip down to Florida, and in the process, they trek through many of the most important parts of the South. Setting is important here because it allows the Grandmother to engage with Red Sammy about the good old days. There is a certain amount of mysticism about the South, and it is often expected that people from the South will talk lovingly and knowingly about the older times. This would not play as well in any other setting, where the folksiness might not be as believable. This ties into the plot in a major way. Life, the Grandmother argues, has changed much since she was young, and as a result, it is less valuable now. Later in the story, the Misfit shows her just how invaluable life is, an experience that would not have been possible under any other setting.
Genre is also quite important. This particular tale is a short story, a genre that necessarily packs a lot of details into a small amount of space. In short stories, character examinations are often muted, and there is little time for a drawn-out plot. This weighs heavy on this story, and it helps to provide the right structure for the telling of O’Connor’s primary message. Take, for instance, the case of the Misfit. The reader does not ever find out much about his past or background, and even his name is obscured. This helps to add to the mystery of the story, and if the tale were longer, it is likely that O’Connor would have had to explore the characters more deeply. By not exploring the characters, the focus stays on the primary points.
Ultimately, Flannery O’Connor’s work A Good Man is Hard to Find provides a perfect avenue for studying some of the major literary terms at a reader’s disposal. By effectively using character, setting, and genre, the author was able to piece together a tale that communicated her ultimate message. The story is dark, and it is about the complexity of life and human emotion, two themes that were brought out by O’Connor’s use of certain literary devices.