A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor (1955)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror February 14, 2017
Dark fiction is known to be a broad category, but most agree it is the literary expressions of disturbing human nature. The stories are sometimes graphically violent. This story is not–it does have a dark truth and a riveting suspense.
We are in the 1950s. Grandma and her family are on a road trip from Georgia to Florida. Grandma’s son, Bailey, his ‘cabbage-faced wife,’ and their children—a bratty girl and boy—and a cat named Pitty Sing are headed through the deep South. Family dynamics here are intense as you might expect on a long car trip.
Bailey, the dad: “All right!” he shouted and drew the car to a stop at the side of the road. “Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one second? If you don’t shut up, we won’t go anywhere.”
And then an accident happens. That silly snarly cat. They tumbled into a ditch. And as it happens, an escaped convict, a killer named “The Misfit” is on the loose in the deep South.
“Behind the ditch they were sitting in there were more woods, tall and dark and deep. In a few minutes they saw a car some distance away on top of a hill, coming slowly as if the occupants were watching them. The grandmother stood up and waved both arms dramatically to attract their attention. The car continued to come on slowly, disappeared around a bend and appeared again, moving even slower, on top of the hill they had gone over. It was a big black battered hearse-like automobile. There were three men in it.”
The story isn’t horror but it will horrify the reader. Tightly crafted, it’s a superb tale of literal and figurative turning points. What struck me was the presence of the bird ghost, “bright blue parrots” threaded in. Chilling effect.
This is bizarre Southern literature by an awe-inspiring writer, a master of form, Flannery O’Connor. She was an American fiction author and essayist, wrote novels and thirty-two short stories, and won a National Book Award and three O. Henry Awards. The famous Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction just celebrated its 30th anniversary at The University of Georgia Press. The award was established to encourage gifted young writers by bringing their work to the attention of readers and reviewers.
“The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place
and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.” Flannery O’Connor
O’Connor loved birds. As a child, she sewed clothes for her pet chickens. Peacocks were her favorite. She kept near 40 peacocks on her property. Visit her website: http://www.flanneryoconnor.org/
Read A Good Man is Hard to Find (Finalist for the 1956 National Book Award in Fiction ) at Xroads.Virginia.Edu.
Listen and read along to the story (read by Flannery O’Connor) at Genius.com.
Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of nearly 200 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories, and horror. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.
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