In her essay “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, Flannery O’Connor tells a story about the last days of a disconnected family. Bailey, his wife, and three children are traveling to Florida for a family vacation. With them is their grandmother, who always complains about everything. The children are spoiled and Bailey is rude and inconsiderate. His wife is busy with the young baby. The entire family is dis-functional and relationships are strained. The real tragedy of the story revolves around the last moments of their lives, rather than meeting The Misfit.
The story starts off with a lot of foreshadowing and a good reader will quickly catch where the story is heading. In the first paragraph the grandmother says “The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida.” It is the first introduction. Later, while the family is eating at Red Sammy’s Famous Barbecue the subject is brought up again. “Did you read about that criminal, The Misfit, that’s escaped.” the grandmother says. After that a few paragraphs are used just to discuss The Misfit. The author is warning the readers that The Misfit is going to be a part of the story. However, the family doesn’t show much concern for it other than the grandmother. I even suspect that some readers who read the story didn’t really predict that the family would actually meet up with The Misfit for such a tragic ending.
Finally, after all the foreshadowing, The Misfit finally comes to the stage. The following events get more and more tragic after that. However, the most tragic and saddest part about the ending is not the characters untimely deaths, but the last moments of their lives. How the grandmother and her children misuse their god given time on earth and die rather pathetically.
From the very beginning of the story the relationships between everyone is screwed up. When the grandmother was complaining, “Bailey didn’t look up from his reading.” This shows that Bailey is simply ignoring his own mother. His wife was the same; “The children’s mother didn’t seem to hear her.” The children were very disrespectful and were only interested in comics and having fun. “Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground,” John Wesley said, “and Georgia is a lousy state too.” “You said it,” June Star said.” The children had not learned any love and respect for their grandmother, less alone the state.
The character with the most portrayed flaws was the grandmother. First she was complaining constantly. She hid the cat in the car without her son’s permission. She lied about the treasure in the old plantation. She was a constant drag to her son although he silently tolerated her for the most part. Using her grandchildren she enticed her son to get off the main road toward the plantation which was not there anyway. Last of all, her biggest mistake was to recognize The Misfit out loud. Why couldn’t she just keep silent?
Examining the last moments of this family, we see just how shallow they were. Bailey cussed out his own mother. He never said “I love you” to his wife. The children had caused a ruckus in the car about going to the plantation and had angered their own father. The grandmother kept talking nonstop helplessly. The only normal one at the end was the wife, in my opinion. After Bailey his wife and children were killed, the grandmother still had the nerve to say, “I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!”
And thus ends the story with the death of a poor disconnected family. The tragedy of their deaths does not come from their confrontation with The Misfit, but the lack of quality in their last moments. No one knows when they are going to die. If Bailey and his family didn’t meet The Misfit, then someone else was bound to meet him anyway. Accidents and murders happen all the time. The worst tragedies happen when people live out their lives poorly, and their last days are full of meaningless conflicts instead of loving relationships.