A Good Man is Hard to Find: Characters & Setting

A Good Man is Hard to Find: Characters & Setting
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  • 1:20 Setting
  • 2:14 Characters
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

This lesson will provide you with a synopsis of a well-known work in the Southern Gothic genre, Flannery O'Connor's short story 'A Good Man is Hard to Find.' Explore the descriptions of its setting and main characters, then test your understanding with a few quiz questions.


Southern Gothic writing is often characterized as having flawed characters and depicting unsettling tales of violence. Let's look at a well-known work in this genre, Flannery O'Connor's 'A Good Man is Hard to Find,' as well as descriptions of its setting and main characters.

An old woman takes a trip with her son and his family to Florida. The old woman doesn't want to go because she's heard about a convict who has escaped from jail and is on the loose in Florida. After having a car accident caused by the old woman's cat that she snuck into the car, the family is stranded on the side of the road. Three men soon approach, saying they saw the accident happen.

One of the men takes a look at the car, while another one, who seems to be the leader, tells the third man to take the father and little boy of the family into the woods. Soon, gunshots are heard. The grandmother pleads with the men desperately to have mercy. The leader then instructs the same man to take the wife, baby, and little girl into the woods. More gunshots are heard. Finally, the leader himself, who has been describing his past full of unfair punishment, shoots the old woman. At the end, he comments to his companions, 'It's no real pleasure in life.'


The story takes place on and around back country roads in the South. The family lives in Atlanta and is traveling through Georgia on their way to Florida. The family stops at a place called The Tower for barbecue sandwiches, owned by a man named Red Sammy and his wife. After lunch, the family takes a detour down a dirt road to find a plantation with a secret trap door the grandmother had described. Because of this detour, they are in a less populated, isolated area near the woods when they have their accident and are approached by the men.

The setting is also illustrated through the characters' dialect, or particular way of speaking that shows where they are from. The wife of Red Sammy says, 'Isn't a soul in this green world of God's that you can trust…and I don't count nobody out of that, not nobody.' O'Connor carefully writes the dialogue of her characters to reflect where they are from.


This short story has a small cast of characters. It is interesting to note that O'Connor never gives the name of the grandmother, even though she seems to be the central character. She also never names the grandmother's daughter-in-law; she is referred to most often as 'the children's mother.' This creates some distance between the characters, suggesting that they are not very close. Here are descriptions of each of the characters, in order of their appearance in the story:

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