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A Killing Spree On Vacation: Evil Hiding Behind Good

Alyssa Watson
October 19, 2010
English 12 AP
Smith 2nd Block
Literary Analysis Essay
Often in literature, the use of irony and the development of the plot can help

reveal a theme. In Flannery O'Connor's “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, these techniques

help present the ideas that O'Connor wishes to convey. While on the surface,

O'Connor's story looks like a simple story of the juxtaposition of murder on a family

vacation, the underlying meaning is much deeper. Often things that seem innocent or

harmless may lead to or hide a more serious reality. This is certainly true in O'Connor's

story, as the reader finds out in the course of the story.

In this story, O'Connor uses plot devices such as suspense and foreshadowing to

show that not all things are as innocuous as they seem. Foreshadowing creates a

foreboding in the reader that is later fulfilled. Certain statements or details within the

story seem to have no particular or deeper meaning than the superficial one inside that

conversation, but when looking back, the reader can see that these were pointing

towards the conclusion of the story. ("A Good Man"). At the very beginning of the story,

in the first paragraph, the grandmother mentions The Misfit. While this seems like an

innocent ploy to convince her son to visit Tennessee instead of going to Florida, at the

end of the story it becomes clear that this was not by chance. O'Connor deliberately

foreshadows that the family will run into and be killed by The Misfit. Similarly, when

readying herself for departure, the grandmother seems to realize that some great

tragedy is going to occur. She dresses in some of her finest clothes so that “anyone

seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (O'Connor

455). In the context of the story, this seems like an innocent gesture; however, the

reader can sense the reality of what is to come. While on their way to Florida, the family

passes a “large cotton field with five or six graves fenced into the middle of it” (O'Connor

456). These graves clearly foreshadow the death of all or all but one of the members of

the family ("A Good Man"). After the family crashes their car, and The Misfit shows up,

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fact that the family does not know who he is creates suspense. The reader can make a

guess about who these strangers are, but the family seems to be oblivious to the fact

that while they appear to be nice, these strangers are acting shady, wearing odd

clothing, and carrying guns. At the end of the story, When The Misfit's minions, Hiram

and Bobby Lee, take each member of the family into the woods one by one to shoot

them, it creates suspense for the reader, because while it seems like the grandmother

might talk herself out of being killed, the reader can see that her fate has been foretold

("A Good Man"). No matter what she says to him, The Misfit kills the grandmother


Not only are foreshadowing and suspense important in this short story, they are

intertwined with irony, which is a very important aspect. Throughout the story, the irony

hides the truth of what will happen. A good example of irony is when the grandmother

says that she would not “take [her] children in any direction with a criminal like that

aloose in it” (O'Connor 454). She suggests that because her son, Bailey, wants to take

his children to a place where there is a dangerous criminal, he is being unwise. The

grandmother, ironically, insists that she remembers where the house was, when in fact it

was located in an entirely different state, and therefore leads her family straight into

danger ("A Good Man"). Right after the crash, the grandmother is the one who waves

her arms to attract the attention of the strangers in the car, which further puts her family

into danger. Before the family realizes that the strangers who seem to have come to

help them are going to kill them, Bailey states that his family is “in a terrible

predicament. [They do not} realizes what this is” (O'Connor 463). What Bailey says is

ironic because he himself does not realize that the people he enters the woods with are
going to shoot him ("A Good Man"). He is still under the impression that these people

have come to

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help them and have no reason to harm them. A family vacation is not normally

associated with murder. The fact that this family starts out on a trip to Florida and winds

up getting shot creates situational irony ("A Good Man"). What seems nice at first turns

out to be deadly.

In this short story, a family starts out on a vacation to Florida and ends up being

shot in the woods. Flannery O'Connor uses many techniques including irony, suspense,

and foreshadowing to enforce her idea. From the very beginning, the story is filled with

foreshadowing in the mention of The Misfit and irony in the contrast of murder and a

family vacation. This underlines the idea that evil can be hidden behind things that seem

Works Cited

"A Good Man Is Hard to Find." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen "A Good Man".

Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 97-114. Short Stories for Students. Web. 19 Oct. 2010.

O'Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” Perrine’s Literature Structure,

Sound, and Sense. Ed. Aron Keesbury. Boston, MA: Michael Rosenberg, 2006.

529-539. Print.

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