A Good Man is Hard to Find

Are you among the 57 percent of parents who feel stressed about road trips, according to this recent study? If so, you’ll definitely want to buckle up before setting out with the vacationing Georgia family featured in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”

This story is O’Connor’s best known and, for many readers, most compelling work of fiction. Written in the 1950s, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is full of the keen observations of people and places that inform all of her writing. A roadside barbecue stand, a cat hidden in a basket, a newspaper story about an escaped criminal, and a grandmother’s tall tale about an old plantation with a secret panel combine in unexpected and explosive ways to determine the fates of the central characters. I can’t predict how this story will make you feel, but I can promise that it won’t leave you feeling neutral.

O’Connor had no interest in readers seeking mere entertainment and no patience for critics producing diagrams and summaries. In her stories, she sought to capture the “mystery of existence” and to move readers in ways that went beyond analytical thought. “A short story should be long in depth and give us an experience of meaning,” she declared.

As its title suggests, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is about what it means to be good and to encounter goodness. Is evil a force in its own right, or is it simply the absence of goodness? What power can goodness have in a world apparently dominated by evil?

During this year’s Great Books Chicago event, we’ll be discussing a number of works that grapple with questions like these. Wherever you’ll be journeying from, we hope you’ll join us in exploring what it means to say, “Something wicked this way comes.”

By Nancy Carr