A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories

A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories

by Flannery O'Connor

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"In these stories the rural South is, for the first time, viewed by a writer who orthodoxy matches her talent. The results are revolutionary."—The New York Times Book Review
In 1955, with this short story collection, Flannery O'Connor firmly laid claim to her place as one of the most original and provocative writers of her generation. Steeped in a Southern Gothic tradition that would become synonymous with her name, these stories show O'Connor's unique, grotesque view of life—infused with religious symbolism, haunted by apocalyptic possibility, sustained by the tragic comedy of human behavior, confronted by the necessity of salvation.

With these classic stories—including "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," "Good Country People," "The Displaced Person," and seven other acclaimed tales—O'Connor earned a permanent place in the hearts of American readers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547543703
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 10/15/1992
Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 70,997
File size: 291 KB
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

FLANNERY O’CONNOR (1925–1964) was born in Savannah, Georgia. She earned her MFA at the University of Iowa, but lived most of her life in the South, where she became an anomaly among post–World War II authors: a Roman Catholic woman whose stated purpose was to reveal the mystery of God’s grace in everyday life. Her work—novels, short stories, letters, and criticism—received a number of awards, including the National Book Award. 

Read an Excerpt

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey’s mind. Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy. He was sitting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the orange sports section of the Journal. “Now look here, Bailey,” she said, “see here, read this,” and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head. “Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did.”

Bailey didn’t look up from his reading so she wheeled around then and faced the children’s mother, a young woman in slacks, whose face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green headkerchief that had two points on the top like rabbit’s ears. She was sitting on the sofa, feeding the baby his apricots out of a jar. “The children have been to Florida before,” the old lady said. “You all ought to take them somewhere else for a change so they would see different parts of the world and be broad. They never have been to east Tennessee.”

The children’s mother didn’t seem to hear her but the eight-year-old boy, John Wesley, a stocky child with glasses, said, “If you don’t want to go to Florida, why dontcha stay at home?” He and the little girl, June Star, were reading the funny papers on the floor.

“She wouldn’t stay at home to be queen for a day,” June Star said without raising her yellow head.

“Yes and what would you do if this fellow, The Misfit, caught you?” the grandmother asked.

“I’d smack his face,” John Wesley said.

“She wouldn’t stay at home for a million bucks,” June Star said. “Afraid she’d miss something. She has to go everywhere we go.”

“All right, Miss,” the grandmother said. “Just remember that the next time you want me to curl your hair.”

June Star said her hair was naturally curly.

The next morning the grandmother was the first one in the car, ready to go. She had her big black valise that looked like the head of a hippopotamus in one corner, and underneath it she was hiding a basket with Pitty Sing, the cat, in it. She didn’t intend for the cat to be left alone in the house for three days because he would miss her too much and she was afraid he might brush against one of the gas burners and accidentally asphyxiate himself. Her son, Bailey, didn’t like to arrive at a motel with a cat.

She sat in the middle of the back seat with John Wesley and June Star on either side of her. Bailey and the children’s mother and the baby sat in front and they left Atlanta at eight forty-five with the mileage on the car at 55890. The grandmother wrote this down because she thought it would be interesting to say how many miles they had been when they got back. It took them twenty minutes to reach the outskirts of the city.

The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the back window. The children’s mother still had on slacks and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief, but the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.

She said she thought it was going to be a good day for driving, neither too hot nor too cold, and she cautioned Bailey that the speed limit was fifty-five miles an hour and that the patrolmen hid themselves behind billboards and small clumps of trees and sped out after you before you had a chance to slow down. She pointed out interesting details of the scenery: Stone Mountain; the blue granite that in some places came up to both sides of the highway; the brilliant red clay banks slightly streaked with purple; and the various crops that made rows of green lace-work on the ground. The trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled. The children were reading comic magazines and their mother had gone back to sleep.

“Let’s go through Georgia fast so we won’t have to look at it much,” John Wesley said.

“If I were a little boy,” said the grandmother, “I wouldn’t talk about my native state that way. Tennessee has the mountains and Georgia has the hills.”

“Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground,” John Wesley said, “and Georgia is a lousy state too.”

“You said it,” June Star said.

“In my time,” said the grandmother, folding her thin veined fingers, “children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else. People did right then. Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!” she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. “Wouldn’t that make a picture, now?” she asked and they all turned and looked at the little Negro out of the back window. He waved.

“He didn’t have any britches on,” June Star said.

“He probably didn’t have any,” the grandmother explained. “Little niggers in the country don’t have things like we do. If I could paint, I’d paint that picture,” she said.

The children exchanged comic books.

The grandmother offered to hold the baby and the children’s mother passed him over the front seat to her. She set him on her knee and bounced him and told him about the things they were passing. She rolled her eyes and screwed up her mouth and stuck her leathery thin face into his smooth bland one. Occasionally he gave her a faraway smile. They passed a large cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island. “Look at the graveyard!” the grandmother said, pointing it out. “That was the old family burying ground. That belonged to the plantation.”

“Where’s the plantation?” John Wesley asked.

“Gone with the Wind,” said the grandmother. “Ha. Ha.”

When the children finished all the comic books they had brought, they opened the lunch and ate it. The grandmother ate a peanut butter sandwich and an olive and would not let the children throw the box and the paper napkins out the window. When there was nothing else to do they played a game by choosing a cloud and making the other two guess what shape it suggested. John Wesley took one the shape of a cow and June Star guessed a cow and John Wesley said, no, an automobile, and June Star said he didn’t play fair, and they began to slap each other over the grandmother.

The grandmother said she would tell them a story if they would keep quiet. When she told a story, she rolled her eyes and waved her head and was very dramatic. She said once when she was a maiden lady she had been courted by a Mr. Edgar Atkins Teagarden from Jasper, Georgia. She said he was a very good-looking man and a gentleman and that he brought her a watermelon every Saturday afternoon with his initials cut in it, E. A. T. Well, one Saturday, she said, Mr. Teagarden brought the watermelon and there was nobody at home and he left it on the front porch and returned in his buggy to Jasper, but she never got the watermelon, she said, because a nigger boy ate it when he saw the initials, E. A. T.! This story tickled John Wesley’s funny bone and he giggled and giggled but June Star didn’t think it was any good. She said she wouldn’t marry a man that just brought her a watermelon on Saturday. The grandmother said she would have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden because he was a gentleman and had bought Coca-Cola stock when it first came out and that he had died only a few years ago, a very wealthy man.

They stopped at The Tower for barbecued sandwiches. The Tower was a part stucco and part wood filling station and dance hall set in a clearing outside of Timothy. A fat man named Red Sammy Butts ran it and there were signs stuck here and there on the building and for miles up and down the highway saying, try red sammy’s famous barbecue. none like famous red sammy’s! red sam! the fat boy with the happy laugh. a veteran! red sammy’s your man!

Copyright © 1955 by Flannery O’Connor

Copyright 1954, 1953, 1948 by Flannery O’Connor

Copyright renewed 1983, 1981 by Regina O’Connor

Copyright renewed 1976 by Mrs. Edward F. O’Connor

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Table of Contents


A Good Man Is Hard to Find 1

The River 25

The Life You Save May Be Your Own 51

A Stroke of Good Fortune 67

A Temple of the Holy Ghost 85

The Artificial Nigger 103

A Circle in the Fire 133

A Late Encounter with the Enemy 161

Good Country People 177

The Displaced Person 207

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A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this story for class ,I didn't expect to enjoy it it started off kind off slow , as the story went on i got this kind of anticipation for the end ,even though I didn't expect the ending wich was great . The story was very detailed and a lot of foreshdowing all through the story that I didn't realize till i read it for the second time .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read a sample of this book (the title story) on my Nook before purchasing and it was very well written so I thought I would give it a try. I heard about this author on the New Yorker Fiction podcast and they compared her writing to Shirley Jackson's. If you have read Shirley Jackson, then you know exactly what to expect from this book. O'Connor is shockingly brutal in her stories. The moral implications are very plain to see, but sometimes hard to decipher without consulting some sort of critical analysis of the story. I was impressed by the skill of this author, but the stories were so brutal and depressing (without humor, I might add) that I didn't see the fun in reading any of these stories. It wasn't enjoyable for me, but maybe for you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
O'Connor is a masterful shortstory writer. The title story and "A Late Encounter with the Enemy" are the best of the group.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Flannery O'Connor was the master of mixing the absurd with the mundane in the murky underbelly of humanity at its own base level. Her characters are always left striving to meet God at least at near half-way point of reason. Read this one, and I dare you to turn the last page without immediately starting in on page one again to pick out the small unnoticed morsels you may have missed the first time! Exceptional!
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
O¿Connor¿s classic short story collection, featuring dark, pessimistic stories about Southern life, often with ironic twists at the end, really needs no introduction. My favorite is still the title story, about a family on vacation who meet with a very bad man. I don¿t advise reading these stories if you¿re feeling depressed, though. Their bleak outlook on life and human nature can leave you positively suicidal.
amydross on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found the stories in this collection compelling yet hard to digest. I know O'Connor felt that her stories were meaningless unless viewed through the lens of her Catholic faith and conception of grace... And yet, most of her characters are more or less observant protestants. I remain puzzled about this disjunct. Are we meant to understand that for O'Connor, the differences between Catholics and Protestants are insignificant in the face of their shared context of faith, sacrifice, devotion, and grace? Or are we meant to read these stories as lampooning protestants for their failure to engage with the true Church? I could make the argument either way (personally, I have no dog in this fight), but currently I'm leaning toward the second interpretation.
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Flannery O¿Connor is one of those writers I¿ve been meaning to get to. Prompted by recent reviews of her short story collection, A Good Man is Hard to Find, I decided there was no time like the present. Truth be told, after finishing A Good Man, I cannot believe I waited so long to enjoy this talented writer¿s stories.While I enjoyed each story in this collection, a few stood out for me:1) ¿A Good Man is Hard to Find¿ ¿ A family and their grandmother are traveling by car to Florida for vacation. The grandmother is quite precocious, even smuggling her cat into the car, despite her son¿s disapproval. She was also leery of going to Florida because she worried about running into an outlaw serial killer. When she takes her family on a wild goose chase to find an old house, her worst fear is realized, coming face to face with the serial killer. 2) ¿The River¿ ¿ A young boy, Harry, goes with his new babysitter to a church revival where he is baptized for the first time. Harry is neglected by his parents, particularly his alcoholic mother. Once home, the boy remembers the words of the preacher ¿ that he is somebody - and runs away from home to return to the river, to return to the feeling of self-worth that he experienced during his baptism. Of all the stories in this collection, this one touched me the most. I won¿t soon forget young Harry.3) ¿A Late Encounter With the Enemy¿ ¿ General Sash was 104 years old, whose 62-year-old granddaughter was graduating from college. The general (who we realize later was only a major) could care less about his granddaughter¿s academic accomplishment but looked forward to being featured on stage as part of the ceremony. As one of the oldest living Confederate ¿generals,¿ Sash enjoyed the limelight, especially the pretty girls who often posed with him for pictures. Upon arriving at the graduation, though, he didn¿t find any pretty girls or much of the limelight, and eventually does something that no one planned on. This story had an undertone of dark humor, and I found myself smirking at the old general from time to time.All of the stories featured in A Good Man is Hard to Find are gems ¿ a reflection of post-World War II American South with all their doubts and insecurities. If you haven¿t discovered the amazing writing style of Flannery O¿Connor, then this story collection is an excellent place to start.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories (1955), O'Connor's first collection of published short stories, is a stunning, disturbing and often hilarious set of tales about life in the small town Deep South after World War II. Her characters are mean-spirited and devious, shifty and low down, but utterly human and somehow lovable and understandable. A typical example is the centenarian "general" in the story A Late Encounter With the Enemy:"General Sash was a hundred and four years old. He lived with his granddaughter, Sally Poker Sash, who was sixty-two years old and who prayed every night on her knees that he would live until her graduation from college. The General didn't give two slaps for her graduation but he never doubted he would live for it. Living had got to be such a hait with him that he couldn't conceive of any other condition. A graduation exercise was not exactly his idea of a good time, even if, as she said, he would be expected to sit on the stage in his uniform. She said there would be a long procession of teachers and students in their robes but that there wouldn't be anything to equal him in his uniform. He knew this well enough without her telling him, and as for the damm procession, it could march to hell and back and not cause him a quiver. He liked parades with floats full of Miss Americas and Miss Daytona Beaches and Miss Queen Cotton Products. He didn't have any use for processions and a procession full of schoolteachers was about as deadly as the River Styx to his way of thinking. However, he was willing to sit on the stage in his uniform so that they could see him."Other stories include A Good Man Is Hard to Find, in which a family encounters a psychopathic killer, The Artificial Nigger, where a country boy comes to the big city of Atlanta for a visit to the place "where I come from", and The Displaced Person, in which a Polish immigrant and his family come to a small struggling farm to work, to the consternation of the whites and blacks that already toil there. These are amazing, outrageous and unforgettable stories, and I cannot recommend this collection, or her first novel, Wise Blood, highly enough.
Sean191 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first book from Flannery O'Connor. When I first began reading these stories, I was worried I had run into another group of characters like the "she'" of Philip Roth's "When She Was Good." Although I don't believe I ever despised a literary character so much before - I praised Roth's talent for bringing those feelings out. After reading O'Connor, I might have to retract the praise at least slightly. Roth had created a caricature... while O'Connor's characters may not be totally believed, they still have more depth to them. The characters in many of these short stories are unlikeable, yet, they're amusing and the stories are interesting in that they each serve to question some part of mankind, be it faith, prejudices, social roles or acceptance.
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Flannery O'Connor is one of great American writers of the 20th century, a Southern Gothic stylist of the first order. She won the National Book Award for the posthumous 1972 collection, 'The Complete Stories'. O'Connor sets her stories in the rural South and populates them with flawed, grotesque, and twisted characters - this is not the imagined noble, glorious, and chivalric South, but rather the real South of the poor and middling whites of the 1950's(race is mostly in the background). She catches the nuances of human behavior. Her stories have powerful, unexpected and disturbing endings. Pick up a story and read just one paragraph and you will be hooked. "The old woman and her daughter were sitting on their porch when they saw Mr. Shiftlet come up their road for the first time. The old woman slid to the edge of her chair and leaned forward, shading her eyesfrom the piercing sunset with her hand. The daughter could not see far in front of her and continued to play with her fingers. Although the old woman lived in this desolate spot with only her daughter and she had never seen Mr. Shiftlet before, she could tell, even from a distance, that he was a tramp and no one to be afraid of..." Absolutely the highest recommendation.
kjforester on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I finished this remarkable book last night and am still thinking about three of her stories - "The Misfit," "The River," and "The Displaced Person." The layers of psychology, religion and culture that O'Conner wove into each are astounding and worthy of many more rereads. I grew up in the South and can clearly remember how my elders talked about and related to African Americans. It was just as O'Conner described. When I was a little girl, both my grandmothers had a "black woman" who worked for them several days a week cleaning, washing, ironing, etc., and I remember riding with my them many times to take these ladies back to "N-town." I can even recall with astonishing clarity how the paved road ended and the dirt road began as we drove to their homes. I had not thought about these memories in many years until reading this book. Now with the hindsight of nearly four decades, I realize I was part of that stark, segregated relationship between the two races (even if only as a child) and it is sobering - and worth remembering if only to ensure it never happens again.
kwohlrob on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This collection was an epiphany for me. As a writer, it changed my style completely. O'Connor became my godmother. Her stories are so perfectly crafted: the prose is sparse, yet carries so much weight in each sentence; the dialogue is minimal, but everything the characters say has importance; and most of all, the stories themselves are engrossing -- they are simple in their construction and told with an ease that belies the expert craftsmanship. This collection is required reading for anyone who wants to even think about writing a short story, let alone craft one of merit.
samatoha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing stories,basiclly of a realistic-horror kind, in a world where religion,faith and moral issues are twisted and the reader must confront them as the narrative surprises revealed.Things are not what they seem and one has to re-read the stories again to figure the sub-text fully.O'Conenr wrote her stories to perfection (good examples for creative writing classes) and every detail has a meaning.Some of those are pure mesmerizing masterpieces.The stories always ends with a revalation of hope, but the outcome of it is something for the reader's imagination.As said,things are not as necessary bad as they seem.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
These stories are violent and sometimes hard to take, with a fair helping of the grotesque thrown in, but they are sure to be engaging and page-turning. The characters are fascinating, and the heavy helping of religion will force you to give the work more thought than you might otherwise. A fair warning is that you might want to read the book in small doses, reading a story or two in between longer works, since the themes might get repetitive otherwise, and certainly this isn't light or uplifting reading. Still, the book itself is a masterpiece collection worth reading in full.
gwendolyndawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A collection of short stories. Well-written. Draws on the southern tradition of writing (similar to Eudora Welty). The writing is simple, and dialogue is flawlessly written.
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Good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the sample of the book "A good man is hard to find " and really liked it a lot, so I bought it. After reading all the story I was disappointed in the turn of events. It was very depressing. At first when I read the sample, I was so pleased, and thought it was such a good realistic story of a family. Then reading the other stories in the book, I was even more disappointed, they were really sort of stupid. Now I wish I had not spent my money on the book and wish I had my money back. Really !
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