Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...©
Type of Work and Publication
"A Good Man
Is Hard to Find” is a short story with opening
comic episodes that belie and foreshadow a
tragic ending. The story contains elements of
southern Gothic, a fictional genre that vests
its stories with foreboding and grotesquerie and
replaces the romanticism of nineteenth century
Gothic works with realism. However, southern
Gothic retains the disturbing elements of
earlier Gothic works, whether in the form of a
deranged character, a forbidding forest, or a
sense of impending doom. A southern-Gothic story
may call up ghosts of the past, as Bailey’s
mother does when she apparels herself in the
finery of an Old South grande dame and when she
persuades her family to visit a Civil War-era
plantation with a secret panel.
first appeared in 1953 in Avon Book of
Modern Writing, edited by William Phillips
and Philip Rahv. It was published again in 1955
in a collection entitled A Good Man Is Hard
to Find, and Other Stories.
begins in Atlanta, Georgia, in the home of a
family preparing for a trip to Florida. The
action continues the next day as the family
travels southeast on a highway and takes a side
trip on a dirt road, where the car rolls over
and lands in a ditch. The final scene takes
place after the accident. The time is the
mid-twentieth century. Landscape descriptions
and the apparel of the characters indicate that
the action occurs during the warmer
Atlanta resident with a wife and three children.
He and his family are preparing for a trip to
Mother: Main character, a talkative
elderly woman unidentified by name who lives
with Bailey and his family. She tries to
persuade Bailey to go to Tennessee instead of
wife: Quiet woman who spends her time
feeding or holding her baby. She is unidentified
Wesley, June Star: Bailey’s demanding,
self-centered children. Their bratty behavior
apparently results from a lack parental
Male child of Bailey and his wife. He is
unidentified by name.
Butts: Restaurant operator who agrees with
Bailey’s mother that the world is in a state of
Wife: Waitress in Red Sammy’s restaurant.
She observes that not a single person in the
world is trustworthy.
Dangerous escaped prisoner who comes across
Bailey and his family on a dirt road.
Bobby Lee: Young men who escaped from
prison with The Misfit.
Atkins Teagarden: Man referred to in a
story told by Bailey's mother. He would have
been a good man to marry, she says, because he
owned Coca-Cola stock and died rich.
Pet cat of Bailey’s mother.
Pet of Red Sammy Butts. The monkey is chained to
a chinaberry tree.
By Michael J.
mother wants to go to Tennessee, not Florida. In an
attempt to change her son’s mind, she calls his
attention to a newspaper article saying that a dangerous
prison escapee called The Misfit is on his way to
“I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a
criminal like that aloose in it," she says (paragraph
notes while turning to Bailey’s wife, the children have
already been to Florida but have never been to east
Tennessee. The daughter-in-law, who is feeding the baby,
does not respond.
“If you don’t
want to go to Florida, why dontcha stay at home?” says
John Wesley, eight (paragraph 3). Little June Star adds,
“She wouldn’t stay home to be queen
for a day"1 (paragraph 4).
The next day,
the old woman sits in the back seat, between John Wesley
and June Star, with her black valise. Hidden beneath it
is a basket containing her cat, Pitty
Sing.2 She does not want to leave the animal home
alone for three days. But because Bailey does not like
to check into a motel with a cat, she must hide it from
him. Bailey’s wife is in the front seat holding the baby
as her husband pulls out at 8:45. Although she is
wearing slacks, her mother-in-law is dressed elegantly.
“In case of an accident,” the narrator says, “anyone
seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that
she was a lady” (paragraph 12).
After cautioning Bailey against speeding, the old woman
calls attention to points of interest along the way.
John Wesley then urges his father to "go through Georgia
fast so we won't have to look at much" (paragraph 14).
"If I were a little boy," his grandmother says,"I
wouldn't talk about my native state that way. Tennessee
has the mountains and Georgia has the hills."
"Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground, and
Georgia is a lousy state too," John Wesley says
(paragraph 16). June Star agrees.
The old woman holds the baby for a while, making faces
at him. He reacts with a faint flicker of a smile. After
John Wesley and June Star put down the comic books they
have been reading, they eat lunch with their
grandmother, who dines on a peanut-butter sandwich and
an olive. She tells them a story about the time when a
young man named Edgar Atkins Teagarden left her a
watermelon on her front porch when he was wooing her. He
had carved his initials into the rind. But, the old
woman says, she never got it “because a nigger boy ate
it when he saw the initials. E.A.T.!” (paragraph 26).
She tells June Star that Teagarden would have been a
good man to marry because he had good manners, bought
Coca-Cola stock, and died rich.
The family stops at the Tower, a restaurant owned by Red
Sammy Butts, and orders his specialty, barbecued
sandwiches. Red Sammy sits down near them and complains
about how untrustworthy people are but notes that he
recently allowed two men to charge a gas bill.
“Now why did I do that?” (paragraph 36)
“Because you’re a good man,” the old woman says
The waitress, Red Sammy's wife, brings the food and
says, “It isn’t a soul in this green world of God’s that
you can trust.” Looking at her husband, she adds, “And I
don’t count nobody out of that . . ." (paragraph
The old woman asks Red Sammy whether he has heard about
The Misfit, and his wife says she wouldn’t be surprised
if he “attacked . . . this restaurant right here”
“A good man is hard to find,” Red Sammy says.
“Everything is getting terrible” (paragraph 43).
The old woman says Europe is to blame for everything
because of all the money it gets from the United States.
Red Sammy agrees.
family is on the road again and approaching Toomsboro,3 the old
woman recalls a plantation she visited in the vicinity.
She wants to see it again. Realizing that Bailey won’t
want to stop, she makes up a story to whet the family’s
appetite, saying the house has a secret panel behind
which all the family silver was hidden during Sherman’s march through Georgia.4 The
story intrigues the children, so she asks Bailey to turn
off so they can see the house. He refuses. John Wesley
begins kicking the back of the driver’s seat, and June
Star complains to her mother. The baby begins crying.
Bailey gives in.
Following his mother’s directions, Bailey turns around
and drives about a mile to a dirt road and swings onto
it. After he goes a considerable distance, a “horrible
thought” comes to his mother. It is so unsettling that
she jerks upward, moving the valise and uncovering the
basket. Pitty Sing jumps out and lands on Bailey’s
shoulder. Bailey loses control of the car. His wife
falls out her door, hugging the baby close. The children
spill onto the floor, and the old woman ends up in the
front beneath the dashboard. After turning over but
righting itself, the car comes to rest in a deep ditch
on the side of the road. Everyone is all right except
Bailey’s wife, who has a cut on her face and a broken
shoulder. The children are delighted with the idea that
they have just been in an accident.
The old woman decides not to tell anyone about the
“horrible thought” that precipitated the accident: She
had remembered that the plantation she visited was in
Tennessee, not Georgia. While they are all sitting in
the ditch, she stands up and waves her arms as a black
car resembling a hearse approaches.
After it stops, two young men and an older man, the
driver, get out. All are carrying guns. The old woman
thinks she recognizes the driver, who is wearing
glasses, but can’t place him. He greets them and tells
one of the younger fellows, Hiram, to try to start the
car. John Wesley asks why he is carrying a gun. The man
tells his mother to have the children sit next to her
because they “make me nervous.” June Star asks why he is
telling them what to do. Then their grandmother
remembers who he is.
“You’re The Misfit!” she says (paragraph 82).
Apparently, she had seen his picture in the newspaper
article about him or on a wanted poster.
He confirms that he is indeed The Misfit, seeming
pleased with himself. But he says it would have been
better for everyone if she hadn’t remembered his face.
Bailey, apparently angry with her for letting on that
she recognized him, says something to her that makes her
cry. The Misfit tries to calm her down.
“You wouldn’t shoot a lady, would you?” she says
The Misfit says he hopes he won’t have to. The old woman
then says he looks like a nice man who comes from a good
family. He says his mother and father were among the
finest people you could meet. Then he tells the other
young man, Bobby Lee, to watch the children, again
noting that they make him nervous.
Meanwhile, Hiram reports that it will take a half-hour
to repair the car. The Misfit then orders Hiram and
Bobby Lee to take Bailey and John Wesley into nearby
woods because “the boys want to ask you something”
After the boys leave with Bailey and his son, the old
lady tells The Misfit, “I just know you’re a good man.
You’re not a bit common” (paragraph 98). The
Misfit says he is not a good man; his own father
predicted that he would go wrong. He then apologizes for
his shabby apparel, saying, “We buried our clothes that
we had on when we escaped and we’re just making do until
we can get better” (paragraph 99).
The old woman tells him he could live an upright life if
he really wanted to and nobody would be “chasing you all
the time” (paragraph 104). Her words make him reflect.
Two pistol shots ring out from the forest.
“Bailey Boy!” the old woman says.
The Misfit says he has done almost everything in his
life. He was a gospel singer, a soldier, a husband
(twice), an undertaker, a railroad worker, and a farmer.
Moreover, he says, “[I] been in a tornado, seen a man
burnt alive oncet, [and] even seen a woman
flogged” (paragraph 109). The old woman repeatedly
tells him to pray, although he had already told her that
he doesn’t pray. He says he can’t remember why he went
to prison but acknowledges that a prison therapist had
told him that he killed his father. "[B]ut I known that
for a lie," the Misfit says, claiming that his father
died of the flu in 1919 (paragraph 117).
Hiram and Bobby Lee return from the woods. Hiram has
Bailey’s shirt, which displays imprints of bright blue
parrots. The Misfit puts the shirt on, then sends June
Star, her mother, and the baby off to the woods with the
boys. The Misfit and the old woman are now the only ones
at the crash site. When she tells him that Christ will
help him, he compares himself to Christ, saying he was
wrongfully punished. He calls himself The Misfit, he
says, because what he was supposed to have done wrong
does not fit the severity of the punishment he received.
There is another pistol shot, and the old woman begs for
her life, saying she’ll give The Misfit all her money.
Two more pistol shots ring out.
Bailey Boy!” the woman cries (paragraph 133).
Christ raised the dead, The Misfit says. But He
shouldn’t have done so, he says, because “He thown
[thrown] everything off balance. If He did what He said,
then it’s nothing for you to do but thow [throw]
everything away and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then
it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you
got left the best way you can—by
killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some
other meanness to him” (paragraph 134).
The Misfit says he wishes he knew for certain whether
Christ did or did not raise the dead. If he knew, he
says, “I wouldn’t be like I am now.” He looks as if he
is about to cry, and the old woman reaches out and
touches him. The Misfit pulls back and shoots her in the
chest three times. When Hiram and Bobby Lee return, they
look down at the woman’s face, which is smiling. The
Misfit tells them to dispose of her body in the woods,
where the other bodies are lying. He picks up Pitty
“She was a talker, wasn’t she?” Bobby Lee says.
“She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody
there to shoot her every minute of her life,” The Misfit
“Some fun!” Bobby Lee says.
The Misfit says, “Shut up, Bobby
Lee. It’s no real pleasure in life” (paragraphs
Anyone can become
righteous and gain redemption, no matter the gravity
of his or her wrongdoing, by humbly accepting Christ
and placing faith in Him. When the old woman reaches
out and touches The Misfit—calling him one of her
own children—she achieves forgiveness for her
sins—including her self-centered ways, her racism,
and her lying—inasmuch as her selfless act signals
her own contrite acceptance of Christ. Having
received the grace of God, she becomes the “good
man” who is hard to find.
The Misfit, on the other hand, continues to reject
Christ. However, the old woman’s insights and
attempts to fire his faith have loosened the hold of
his unbelief, thereby casting in doubt the validity
of his raison d’Ítre—to kill for
pleasure. As a result, he tells Bobby Lee at the end
of the story, there’s “no real pleasure in life.”
The behavior of
the characters suggests that the values of the world
are breaking down. John Wesley and June Star are
hellions with sassy tongues, but their parents show
no inclination to discipline them. Although Bailey’s
mother realizes that the world has gone
astray—“People are certainly not nice like they used
to be” (paragraph 35)—she is ignorant of her own
shortcomings: She nags, she lies, she primps herself
excessively, and she uses offensive racist terms
such as “nigger” and “pickaninny." Moreover, she
observes that Edgar Atkins Teagarden would have been
a good man to marry simply because he held Coca-Cola
stock, and she begrudges the money America sends to
Europe in the aftermath of World War II.
On the latter point, Red Sammy, owner of the Tower
restaurant, agrees with the old woman even though
his appearance indicates that he can well afford to
sacrifice for those in need: “His khaki trousers
reached just to his hip bones and his stomach hung
over them like a sack of meal under his shirt”
(paragraph 34). It is interesting to note that the
nickelodeon in his restaurant requires a dime to
play a song, not a nickel. (A nickelodeon, which
played phonograph records on a turntable, was so
named because it cost a nickel to play a
Red Sammy’s wife agrees with the old
woman's observation that people aren't the way they
used to be. In fact, she says, the world is so bad
that everyone is false and faithless:
isn’t a soul in this green world of God’s that you
can trust,” she [Red Sammy's wife] said. “And I
don’t count nobody out of that, not nobody,” she
repeated, looking at Red Sammy.” (paragraph 39)The Misfit, of course, thinks the only
worthwhile thing to do in life is to “enjoy the few
minutes you got left the best way you can—by killing
somebody or burning down his house or doing some other
meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness” (paragraph
134). His two young companions, who act as his cat’s
paws, apparently believe as he does.
Disbelief Breeds Wrongdoing
The Misfit rejects Christ as God
because he lacks empirical evidence of His divinity
and because he lacks faith in the testimony of the
bible. If there is no God, The Misfit reasons, there
is no moral order. Consequently, he believes that he
may do whatever he pleases —even
The climax of a
literary work can be defined as (1) the turning
point at which the conflict begins to resolve itself
for better or worse, or as (2) the final and most
exciting event in a series of events. According to
the first definition, the climax of "A Good Man Is
Hard to Find" occurs when the old woman blurts out
that she recognizes the driver of the black car as
The Misfit. According to second definition, the
climax occurs when the old woman reaches out and
touches The Misfit, who then shoots her three times.
Flannery O'Connor presents the story in
third-person point of view. Most of the time, the
narrator reports the actions and conversations of the
characters but not their thoughts. Such a narrative
approach is called limited third-person point of
view. However, in a few instances, she also reveals the
characters' thoughts. This approach is called omniscient
(all-knowing) third-person point of view. Here are
examples of the latter:
intend for the cat to be left alone for three days . .
. (paragraph 10).
grandmother wrote this down because she thought it
would be interesting to say how many miles they had
been when they ...........got
back (paragraph 11).
that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time
looking at an old house . . . (paragraph 45).
sneaks into the story words and passages that foreshadow
the tragic developments on the dirt road. Consider, for
example, the reference to The Misfit by Bailey's mother
in paragraph 1. It raises the possibility, however
remote, that Bailey and his family will encounter The
Misfit. Bailey's mother again foreshadows later
developments when she dresses for the trip in her finest
clothes so that "in case of an accident, anyone seeing
her dead on the highway would know at once that she was
a lady" (paragraph 12).
When the family is on the highway, Bailey's mother calls
attention to a cemetery in a cotton field "with five or
six graves" (paragraph 22). There are, of course, six
people in the car. When the old woman observes at the
Tower restaurant that people aren't as nice they once
were, the owner's wife (a waitress) says she thinks the world is so bad that
everyone is false and faithless: "It isn’t a soul in
this green world of God’s that you can trust”
(paragraph 39). (After the accident, the old woman
flags down a black car, unaware that The Misfit is the
driver. She trusts him to come to their aid.)
After the travelers leave the restaurant and drive
off, the author clues the reader that the trip is
about to go wrong by noting that they are approaching
the town of Toomsboro. When they turn off to see the
plantation with the secret panel, they encounter a
dusty dirt road that snakes this way and that, as well
as dark forests—all signs that they are headed toward
For the trip to Florida, the old woman
dresses in finery that reflects her image of herself
as a lady. Of particular interest are her white
gloves, the white violets on her blue straw hat, the
white dot in the print on her navy blue dress, and her
white organdy collar and cuffs. These appear to
symbolize her opinion of herself as a righteous and
principled woman with a sunny disposition. Nature
mimics her—or does it
mock her?—with its
lustrous attire. As the car travels out of the Atlanta
area, she calls attention to
the blue granite that in some
places came up to both sides of the highway; the
brilliant red clay banks slightly streaked with purple
and the various crops that made rows of green
lace-work on the ground. The trees were full of
silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them
sparkled. (paragraph 13)After The
Misfit arrives and orders his cohorts to take her son
and grandson into the woods, the old woman begins to
reject her selfish image of herself, symbolized by her
hat: "The grandmother reached up to adjust her hat brim
as if she were going to the woods with him [Bailey] but
it came off in her hand. She stood staring at it and
after a second she let it fall on the ground" (paragraph
96). When Hiram and Bobby Lee take Bailey's wife, the
baby, and June Star to the woods, all of the brightness
disappears from the old woman's surroundings:
"Alone with the misfit, the grandmother found that she
had lost her voice. There was not a cloud in the sky nor
any sun. There was nothing around her but woods"
The old woman then realizes that The Misfit's
dark soul is similar to her own. She may not have
committed heinous crimes, but she is a sinner
nonetheless. When she reaches out and touches The
Misfit, she completes the transition from selfish old
woman to selfless old woman. The misfit shoots her. But
she dies with a smile on her face, knowing that a
genuinely bright future awaits her.
Structure as a Metaphor
The plot structure seems to be a
metaphor for life. One might label the parts of the
plot as follows:
1. Birth and Childhood
(Atlanta): The family discusses and prepares for
the trip. Irony: Dramatic and
2. Adulthood (the Highway): The
family travels southeast on a main route to
3. Old Age and Death (the Dirt Road):
The family trundles over an unpaved road, the car
overturns, and the family dies at the ....hands of the The Misfit
and his cohorts.
Dramatic irony occurs when a character
in a literary work fails to perceive what is obvious
to the reader (or, in the case of a play, the
audience). The most famous example of dramatic irony
in literature occurs in Sophocles' play, Oedipus
Rex, when he fails to realize what is clear to
the audience: that a traveler he kills on a road is
his own father and that a woman he marries is his own
In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," Bailey's mother views
herself as a proper southern lady—genteel,
upright, wise. But to the reader, her actions reveal
her as another person. She primps excessively, lies,
uses racist language, begrudges America's goodwill
contributions to postwar Europe, and foolishly blurts
out that she recognizes The Misfit. Not until the
story takes a tragic turn does she begin to realize
that she is not who she thinks she is.
Situational irony occurs when a development in a story
is the opposite of what the reader expects. In "A Good
Man Is Hard to Find," this type of irony occurs when
an evil man, The Misfit, causes Bailey's mother to see
herself for what she is, a sinner. Her enlightenment
allows her to redeem herself by casting off her
selfishness and reaching out to the deranged killer.
When he shoots her, she dies with a smile on her face,
happy that she had become a good woman before it was
too late. In effect, The Misfit's evildoing leads to
the old woman's redemption.
Flannery O'Connor makes every word
contribute to the overall effect of a story. When she
uses figures of speech, they are not mere dressing to
demonstrate technical skill but integral parts of the
story, as in the following highlighted simile
describing the children's mother: "[She was] a young
woman in slacks, whose face
was as broad and as innocent as a cabbage.
. . (paragraph 2). This simile, together with the
words before it, stresses the mother's guilelessness
and callowness, making it easy for others in her
family to manipulate her. In Red Sammy's restaurant,
she plays "The Tennessee Waltz" on the jukebox,
perhaps suggesting that she wanted to go to Tennessee
too but was afraid to speak up.
effective similes in the story include the following:
His [Bailey's] jaw was as
rigid as a horseshoe (paragraph 49). The Family's Fate
Behind them the line of woods gaped like
a dark open mouth (paragraph 80).
His [Bailey's] eyes were as blue and
intense as the parrots in his shirt (paragraph 95).
[T]he grandmother raised her head like a
parched old turkey hen . . . (paragraph 133).
Like his mother,
Bailey has an opportunity to redeem himself, an
opportunity presented when he is "squatting in the
position of a runner about to spring forward . . ."
(paragraph 91). Apparently, he is considering
rushing The Misfit to save his mother and family.
But he remains fixed in that position; he fails to
act. A moment later, when he and John Wesley are
about to enter the woods with Hiram and Bobby Lee,
he turns and shouts, “I’ll be back in a minute, Mamma,5 wait on me” (paragraph 96). Here, no
doubt realizing that he is going
his death, his last thought is of his mother. He is
attempting to hearten and console her. And, for the
only time in the story, he addresses her with an
endearing name rather than ignoring her or growling
at her. But is this behavior enough to redeem him?
After all, he addresses only his mother and ignores
his wife. Moreover, he does not include John Wesley
in his statement; he says "I'll be back" instead of
"we'll be back."
As for Bailey's wife, she acquits herself honorably,
it seems. First, she saves her baby when she falls
out the door, suffering a broken left shoulder as
she clings to the infant. When her turn to die
comes, she sits dangling her left arm at her side
while holding the baby with the other arm. The
Misfit says, "Lady, would you and that little girl
like to step off yonder with Bobby Lee and Hiram and
join your husband?" Her astonishing response is,
"Yes, thank you" (paragraph 124). Her response and
her behavior during and after the accident arouse
And what of John Wesley and June Star? Because they
are so young, one may conclude that God does not
turn them away. However, one may also conclude that
He keeps them at a distance.
Misfit in the Making
The narrator hints that John Wesley and
The Misfit have more in common than the eyeglasses
they wear. Consider that the boy embodies the sadistic
philosophy of The Misfit: There is “no pleasure but
meanness” (paragraph 134). John Wesley is certainly
mean: He insults his grandmother, disrespects his
parents, and resorts to violence—kicking
the back of his father’s seat (paragraph 50) and
fighting with his sister (paragraph 25)—to vent his wrath. Moreover,
he maintains a hostile attitude toward the world:
“Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground,” he
says, “and Georgia is a lousy state too” (paragraph
Consider too that both The Misfit and
John Wesley want to look beyond the pale of their
mundane existence: The Misfit wishes he could have
seen Christ and learned what was behind the
resurrection story. John Wesley wants to see the
secret panel in the plantation house and discover what
is behind it. Oddly, The Misfit was a gospel singer
who became a killer. John Wesley bears the name of a
gospel preacher, John Wesley (1703-1791), and a
killer, gunslinger John Wesley Hardin (1853-1895), who
shot to death more than twenty men.
Pitty Sing and
The Misfit: Dangerous Escapees
Like The Misfit, Bailey's mother's cat,
Pitty Sing, is a dangerous escapee. After the old
woman enters the family car in Atlanta, she hides
Pitty Sing in a basket covered with a newspaper
(probably the same one with the article about The
Misfit), then places her valise on top, "imprisoning"
him. Later, when the old woman discovers her mistake
about the location of the plantation, she jerks
upward, knocking over the valise. "The instant the
valise moved," the narrator says, "the newspaper top
she had over the basket under it rose with a snarl and
Pitty Sing, the cat, sprang onto Bailey's shoulder,"
causing Bailey to lose control of the car. It ends up
in a ditch. The narrator uses the word snarl
one other time in the story, in paragraph 134 to
characterize the sound of The Misfit's voice. After
The Misfit and his cohorts commit the murders, the cat
nuzzles against The Misfit, who then picks it up. Is
Pitty Sing an agent of evil?.
Apparel Raises Questions While on the lam, The Misfit, Hiram, and
Bobby Lee bury their prison uniforms after obtaining
other clothes. One can imagine that they killed the
wearers of the apparel, as well as the owner of the
"hearselike" car. When they exit the car at the accident
scene, The Misfit is wearing tight jeans and tan and
white shoes but no shirt or socks. He is carrying a
black hat. Hiram is wearing black pants and a red sweat
shirt. Bobby Lee is wearing khaki pants, a striped coat,
and a gray hat. The apparel raises the following
Did Bobby Lee get his khaki pants
from Red Sammy Butts, who is described in paragraph
34 as wearing "khaki trousers"?
If so, did the trio kill Red Sammy and his wife?
Keep in mind that Red Sammy's wife had earlier told
"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he didn't attack
this place right here." This statement could have
implied that Red Sammy's wife
had knowledge that The Misfit was on the loose in
their vicinity. ....
Did Hiram, who is described as fat,
get his red sweat shirt from Red Sammy Butts, who is
also fat? The narrator says in paragraph 34 that Red Sammy
is wearing a shirt but does not mention the color.
- Where did the Misfit's black hat,
Hiram's black trousers, and the black hearselike car
come from? In the first paragraph of the story, when Bailey's
mother reads the newspaper article about The Misfit,
she says, "[Y]ou read here what it says he did to these people." Were
"these people" an undertaker and his family?
When The Misfit and his cohorts pull
up at the accident scene, The Misfit studies the
accident victims for several minutes, speaks to the
other two before they get out of the car (paragraph
71). Is It possible that what he told his cohorts in the car was to kill
Bailey, his wife, and their children and to retrieve
Bailey's shirt? Consider that after The Misfit
and the other two leave the
car, Hiram and Bobby Lee know exactly what to do
when The Misfit tells them to take the family.members into the woods. It
is as if everything is prearranged.
Questions and Essay Topics
If the old woman had kept her mouth
shut, not revealing that she recognized The Misfit,
would Bailey, his mother, his wife, and the children
be alive at the end of the story? Or did The Misfit
intend to kill all the family members when he pulled
up alongside their wrecked
car? Keep in mind that he and his companions exited
their car with guns.
Does The Misfit’s conversation with
Bailey’s mother alter his viewpoints in any way?
The Misfit says he kills for pleasure.
Does he also kill to get even for what he perceives as
society’s unjust treatment of him?
Is The Misfit sane?
Write an essay that analyzes the psyche
of Bailey's mother or The Misfit.
In paragraph 131, Bailey's mother says,
"I know you wouldn't shoot a lady." The Misfit
replies, "Lady, there never was a body that give ....the undertaker a tip?"
Does lady have the same meaning in both
Is Red Sammy's wife a good person?
What is the role of chance or fate in
queen for a day: Radio
program inaugurated in 1945 in which women competed
for prizes with hard-luck stories. The woman who earned the most audience
applause became "queen for a day" and received an
array of gifts, including expensive appliances and restaurant dinners. The
program later became a hit TV show.
Pitty Sing: This pet cat is named after Pitti-Sing, a
character in an 1885 Gilbert and Sullivan
operetta, The Mikado. It may be that Bailey's
fancies herself a cultured lady—enjoys opera and
decided to give the cat a highbrow name.
A real town east of Macon. Modern maps of Georgia
locate it at the junction of Routes 57 and 112.
. . Georgia: After capturing Atlanta during
the U.S. Civil War, General William Tecumseh
Sherman (1820-1891) led a force of
more than 60,000 men on a march southeast to
Savannah, destroying Confederate railroads and
supplies along the way.
The primary dictionary definition of this word is
"gland for secreting milk, present in the female
of all mammals" (Webster's New
World Dictionary & Thesaurus. Version
2.0. Accent Software International. Macmillan
Publishers, 1998.) Mamma can also be a term
of endearment for a mother, although in this sense
it is usually spelled with one m after the