Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love

By Richard Giannone | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Finding the Good Man

"Yet even now," says the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with
fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and
not your garments."

Joel 2:12

Then it becomes clear as daylight that God's word is always right, and
that it is edifying always to be in the wrong before God.
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Prayer

The ending of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is starkly simple in atmosphere and action. Sun heats the afternoon. The sky remains clear. In a ditch an escaped convict, The Misfit, unbosoms the needs of his soul to an unknown grandmother whom he holds hostage. He feels torn, the old lady learns, between the impulse to follow Jesus and the dread of doing so, but all he can do is suppress Jesus' call by killing and burning and destroying. The woman's heart goes out to her captor. When she sees up close her tormentor's twisted face about to break into tears, she reaches out to touch him; her irrepressible consolation, however, agitates the criminal's lifelong terror. To relieve his fear, The Misfit shoots the grandmother. The old woman lies soaked in blood, smiling up at the cloudless sky.

The facial expressions of murderer and victim embody the themes unifying the ten stories of A Good Man Is Hard to Find. No sooner does his gun go off than The Misfit scowls with a displeasure indistinguishable from self-loathing. He departs oppressed by his own wrath but

-70-

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Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • To Francis Samuel D'Andrea iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Note on Texts xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Price of Guilt 7
  • Chapter 2 - Looking for a Good Man 42
  • Chapter 3 - Finding the Good Man 70
  • Chapter 4 - The Price of Love 115
  • Chapter 5 - Convergence 154
  • Chapter 6 - Preparation 183
  • Chapter 7 - Fulfillment 211
  • Chapter 8 - First and Last Things 232
  • Appendix 255
  • Bibliography 257
  • Index to O'Connor's Works 263
  • General Index 265
  • A Note on the Author 269
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