Name Date Period “a good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor



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

Answer the following questions on your own paper.

Guiding Questions

1. How does Flannery O'Connor describe the cultural and physical landscape of the South? What are the characteristics of the literary genre known as "Southern Gothic"?

2. What are the key themes Flannery O'Connor explores in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?


Teacher "Pit Stop":

3. Although the 1950s highways are not what they are today, how were they different from the 1930s/1940s rural roads in Georgia? What did they permit more people to do?

4. What other technological, economic, and social changes did the U.S. highway system enable in the 1950s?


Teacher "Pit Stop":

5. How would you characterize the grandmother?

6. The grandmother thinks that taking the Georgia-based family to east Tennessee would make them "broad" by "see[ing] different parts of the world." Look up the meaning of the word broad as used in this context. Based on what you know from the story, what do you think of this passage? What is O'Connor's tone here in her characterization of the grandmother?

7. How does O'Connor's humor come through in this passage?

Teacher "Pit Stop":

You are looking out the window of the sedan when the grandmother points out "the cute little pickaninny!" This is an offensive, slang term to describe an African-American child. Additionally, the grandmother uses an offensive, racist term.

Consider the following questions, keeping in mind the historical context of O'Connor's story:

8. What does the grandmother's use of these words suggest about the racial views she holds?

9. What does the grandmother mean when she says, "In my time" at the beginning of this passage?

10. How does the grandmother represent the South's earlier times by using this word?

Teacher “Pit Stop”:

The grandmother and her views are outdated, but reflective of the racial tensions during the time the story was written. Note that the grandmother wants the family to visit a plantation house along their journey, but that the plantation house is not where she remembered it to be. Answer the following questions:

11. "How does O'Connor use the grandmother to distinguish between the "Old" and "New South"?

12. What is symbolic about the fact that the "phantom" plantation is just a figment of the grandmother's bad memory?

Teacher “Pit Stop”:

13. How does the image above compare to O'Connor's descriptions of the mother and the grandmother?

14. What does the grandmother think of the "modern woman"? What are some differences between the grandmother and the mother? How is she mocking each of them?

15. What are some additional changes the grandmother observes?

16. Though the story is told from the grandmother's point-of-view, does the story reveal praise and/or criticism for both the mother and the grandmother? How?


Teacher “Pit Stop”:
Flannery O'Connor once said that, "while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted."

17. What might O'Connor mean when she says "Christ-haunted"? Why "Christ-haunted" instead of "Christ-centered"?

18. What passages of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" support O'Connor's claim about the South?


Teacher "Pit Stop":

Reminding us of the many religious signs along Georgia's highways and country roads, the story's title suggests a journey or quest to "find" a "good man." The "quest" ends with the grandmother trying to save herself by trying to "save" the Misfit. Answer the following questions:

19. Bailey's family literally sets out on a journey, the family vacation. How does the road trip function as a metaphor or symbol of this journey?

20. What might the road trip (and the specific images of the country road) symbolize based on what you have learned from the story at large? [Note: the road trip can symbolize many things, including the breakdown of Bailey's family (consider the kids and their behavior), the passing of time from the Old South to the New South, the journey for confirmation of Christ and Christian living, the Misfit's failed journey of redemption, etc.] .

Teacher "Pit Stop":

21. Identify some "binaries" of the South O’Connor presents in "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Prepare a list of at least three and briefly explain the significance of each in the story.
Teacher "Pit Stop":

Leading a discussion on the "binary," or convergence, of O'Connor's humor v. "the grotesque”, answer the following questions:

22. How would you define the words "gothic" and "grotesque"?

23. What does O'Connor mean by "grotesque"?

24. What elements of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" would you describe as "grotesque"?

25. What elements of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" would you describe as humorous?

26. What are the effects of O'Connor's being both humorous and grotesque in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?


Assessment


Option One: Who's the Real 'Misfit'?
The grandmother is a crucial character in the story. She is the one who wishes to tour the plantation; she wants to bring the cat on the trip; and she upsets the suitcase, which, in turn, frightens the cat, which causes the accident on the dirt road. Though the family encounters the criminal "Misfit" and his cohorts, one could argue that the grandmother herself is a "misfit"-both out of time and out of place. How is the grandmother herself a misfit in the story? Support your argument with concrete, specific details from the story itself and from properly cited resources reviewed during class discussion.
Option Two: A Symbolic Family Road Trip?

Write a typed, three-page essay in which you answer the question, "What might the thwarted family road trip symbolize in O'Connor's 'A Good Man is Hard to Find?" Use evidence from the story to support your argument. You also may use properly cited resources reviewed during class discussion.

Option Three: The Cultural Landscape of the South
Submit a three-page typed paper examining the significance of the Southern setting in O'Connor's story. Use the primary source material explored in this lesson to detail O'Connor's portrayal of the South.
Option Four: Foreshadowing and Symbolism

There are foreshadowing and symbolic suggestions of other levels of meaning than the literal ones from early on in the story. Search the story for references to death, dying, graves, etc. Write a three-page typed essay examining the foreshadowing and symbolism of the story and discussing how O’Connor carefully crafts the story to ensure that the ending is not a predictable one.


Option Five: What’s in a Name?

O’Connor’s appropriation of external realities to suggest other levels of meaning extends to the names of people and places in the story. Explore the significance of those names and of those with no names.


Option Six: Materialism and the Meaning of Life

At the beginning of the story the grandmother is totally preoccupied with what she wants. Yet, as she travels on through the story she accidentally stumbles upon the meaning of life. Explore the religious epiphany the grandmother experiences.


Option Seven: Family Misfit

The grandmother makes a gesture of inclusion toward The Misfit, calling him her son. Analyze the significance of her statement in contrast with her relationship to her own son, the apparent merging of her real son with The Misfit, and the eventual outcome.


Extending the Lesson

  • Assign the O'Connor stories "The Life You Save Might be Your Own" and "Good Country People" to provide a broader view of themes discussed in this lesson. Using these lessons, you can highlight the changing representation of women in more detail.




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