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Free Study Guide: A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O'Connor - BookNotes

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A little boy, five-years-old. He is often sent to baby-sitters, while his parents are having parties and hangovers. He is a curious child, still not sure of the world's limits and possibilities. He is simple, and somewhat trusting--in many ways, a typical little boy.

Mrs. Connin
She is, for the first time, Harry's baby-sitter. She has several other children, and a penchant for healing preachers. She is nice to Harry, and indignant when she learns about his worthless parents.

Reverend Bevel Summers
The healing preacher. He is very young, and doesn't like to be referred to as a healer, but a preacher. He is anxious, however, for people to join him in the "river of Christ."

Mr. Paradise
An older man in the town who goes to all the prayer/healing meetings, but has gotten cynical. He still goes, and makes sarcastic comments. But he is interested in seeing good acts, and tries to look after Harry when he goes off on his own.


Harry, a curious child, somewhat neglected, is left to his own devices. He has ideas, after his encounter with the preacher. Harry looks for a comfortable place for himself in the river.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Harry is certainly the protagonist, and the antagonists may be his parents (who don't take care of him very well), or Mr. Paradise (who accidentally chases him into the river), or Mrs. Connin (who puts ideas in his head).


When Harry goes into the river, will he find what he is looking for and how far will it take him?


After deciding that there is no peace to putting his head under water (it pushes him back and makes him choke) he is startled by Mr. Paradise, who is actually coming to pull him out. Harry puts his head under one more time--trying to get away from the scary man who is coming after him--and the river current pulls him under and he finds the weird peace of the flowing water. And drowns.


A child stands limp in the middle of the living room at six in the morning, his father getting him ready for the baby-sitter who's come to get him. It's cold, and the father is impatient. The mother is sick. The father says he won't expect the boy back until 8 or 9. Mrs. Connin says they are going to see the Reverend Bevel Summers, and that they may be back late. The father almost forgets to say good bye to the boy.

Mrs. Connin and the boy leave. She tells him to wipe his nose, but he has no handkerchief and so she uses hers and gives it to him. She asks him his name. "Bevel," he says. Well, she says this is quite a coincidence, since that is also the preacher's name. She says her husband is away at a government hospital, doesn't believe in faith healers. Bevel says he is hungry, and she says she'll fix him something when they get to her house. She takes him on her lap, and they both fall asleep.

After walking a half mile to her house, Bevel discovers that she has three boys and a tall girl, all bigger than him. Inside, they watch him, and he looks at the pictures on the wall. There's a man with a face like a bare cliff--Mrs. Connin says that is Mr. Connin. There's another picture of a man with long hair and gold on his head, sawing a board. Before he can ask who that is, the boys want him to go outside, but not really in a friendly way. He goes, cautiously, having been beat up by bigger boys before.

These suddenly seem a little more cautious themselves. They take him over to a spot where he can smell animals and hear some grunting. One of the bigger boys says, "She'd kill us," and instead of dumping Bevel in the pig pen, they persuade him that he should loosen a board on the bottom and peek inside. He does, but a big pig comes rushing out and barrels over him and runs all over the place and under the flimsy house and Mrs. Connin is mad but it takes her a long time to calm Bevel down and tell him he is all right. He won't even look at that pig again, the one she says looks like Mr. Paradise who always comes to spoil the healings.

They all walk to the river together, Bevel holding Mrs. Connin's hand--he liked her, and had already found out from her this morning that he had been made by a carpenter named Jesus Christ. He'd thought Jesus Christ was a swear word. She'd shown him a pretty picture book of bible stories, belonging to her great grandma and published in 1932. It was her most prized possession. When she wasn't looking, he stuffed it in his coat with the handkerchief.

The little group is almost late to the ceremony with the Reverend Bevel--it has already started. People stand around, and a young man stands with his pants rolled up, in the river. He starts to preach, saying how he doesn't heal people. If they are there for that, he doesn't do it. He's here to bring them into the River of the Life, the River of Love, the river of pain where they can leave all their troubles with the blood of Jesus. He wants to bring them to Jesus. Only then can they be healed. Bevel watches, and watches the sky and hills. A couple of people wade into the river, and a man says that they haven't changed none, they aren't getting healed. The preacher says again that he never promised that. Another man goes in, comes out. A woman says she's seen the preacher heal people. Then Mrs. Connin says that this boy here has a mother who is sick, and he could be baptized--probably hasn't been. The preacher takes Bevel and stands in the river with him, all serious. Bevel puts his head on the man's shoulder and doesn't really know what the man is saying, but he's says he wants to be baptized. Then he could go in the river. The preacher dunks his head and he is surprised. He does it again. Mrs. Connin says not to forget the mama. Then Bevel says yeah, his mama hasn't got up yet, she has a hangover--and Mr. Paradise laughs out loud, Sure, cure that.

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