A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories (1955) by Flannery O’Connor
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.
Was it what I expected?
I know perfectly well that Southern literature is weird, grotesque, surreal, and laden with symbolism, but it always surprises me all the same. I’m not sure about this one though, because even with all of that, the stories are sort of Christian, but not always with clear morals. I found the stories very easy to understand on the surface, they mostly deal with very normal sorts of people and situations, but they’re not always easy to interpret.
Did I like it?
I think so. I found it interesting, because many of the pieces are more like vignettes than full stories in which something distinctly changes. I was curious about all of them, and found them all thought-provoking, but the ones I remember most are the more suspenseful story-like ones, particularly the title story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and then “Good Country People” toward the end. My favorite aspect of her writing is her dialogue, though. The effortless way she conveys Southern pronunciation and cadence. I wonder if it comes across so well to non-Southern readers who don’t know what words she’s spelling.
Is it worth reading?
I think so, if you’re interested in Southern literature. O’Connor captures a very realistic version of humdrum Southern rural life, perhaps a slightly more normal version, not quite as stylized and supernatural-feeling as that of some other authors like Truman Capote whom I’ve read previously. (Of course, be aware this was written in the Jim Crow south and the language reflects that.)