“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor

Dana Thompson

My coming into possession of this short story collection is really a classic example of the “Intrigued Student” phenomenon––an occurrence in which the student in question is completely and utterly caught by an assigned reading for a class. I have always been a fan of short but masterful stories, and after reading the title story for my Introduction to Fiction class with Professor Stoberock, I became entranced with what happened in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, wondering what? Why?? I spent hours ruminating on the final words of the story, spoken by the extremely disconcerting Misfit: “Shut up, Bobby Lee,” he tells one of his two accomplices, “It’s no real pleasure in life.”

Image courtesy of Harcourt Books

Of course, when a few pages send you reeling like that, you need to get to the bottom of it. After reading the story over and over, going to my professor’s office hours, writing an essay, and buying not only the collection in which the story was published but also Flannery O’Connor’s “Mystery and Manners” so I could get a better idea of her writing, I decided I might have been developing a teensy obsession. Even more uncomfortable was the revelation that, after all this research and immersion, I was no closer to “getting to the bottom” of anything than when I began. And, after reading the other stories in O’Connor’s collection like “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” and “A Stroke of Good Fortune,” I came to suspect that being easily discernible is simply not the Flannery Way.

However, let’s get one thing straight here. Okay, two things. One: Flannery is an awesome name. Two: her writing is not that difficult-to-read style that has you going over and over a single sentence trying to figure out who the cow is talking to whom. The storylines are simple and, most often, rather savage. I caught myself a couple of times saying, “What the–?” out loud at the sound of a gunshot or a splash in the water. But that’s the draw here. There’s a thread of something that is sewn throughout these stories and I don’t know what it is, but it’s inexplicable and beautiful. It’s worth reading this collection of stories to get a glimpse of it.