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

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The child
The twelve-year-old girl who is focus of the story, is not named in the story. She says terribly mean or nasty things to people, quite often. She is on the edge of puberty, has notions of religion and sexuality confused, and is a terror to pretty much everyone.

Susan and Joanne
The child's distant cousins are two fourteen-year-old girls who are boy crazy and are staying with the child and her mother over a long weekend. They are not very smart, and find humor in almost everything. Of course, they dislike the convent.

The child's mother
The mother also thinks the visiting girls are too much, too idiotic. She also wants them to have a good time, and when they leave she says they should come back another time. She doesn't always mean what she says, and gets carried away by what she thinks she should think or do.


The child becomes fascinated by what she's heard of a peep show at a local fair. She can't quite imagine what the older girls have seen, and so makes the image into a religious ritual.

Protagonist and Antagonist

This story does not have a typical antagonist or protagonist. The main character, the child, is the focus of the story, and she does come to the verge of understanding something. Religion and sexuality are confusing to her, but they are not evil forces. The two girls who come to visit certainly change her world, but almost by accident.


When the child goes to the convent service, she suddenly asks God to rid her of her meanness.


On the ride home, the child learns that the peep show has been closed down--probably because of the hermaphrodite exposing him/herself. She knows the hermaphrodite asked for understanding and compassion, yet priests have shut the show down.


Susan and Joanne call themselves Temple One and Temple Two, falling into fits of laughter. They put on skirts and clomp through he house on high heels, paint their faces and really just act stupid. The child has been watching them. They are visiting on the weekend from the convent school, and if just one of them were here, she would play with he child, but with two, they just laugh and act stupid. Event he nuns told the child' s mother that someone just had to keep a grip in them.

At dinner the mother, who is their second cousin, says she wants to find something for the girls to do. The child suggests that Miss Kirby's beau take them out for a spin in his car: the child falls into her own fits of laughter. Miss Kirby colors. Her beau brings Negroes to town in his car every Saturday, for ten cents each, and then brings Miss Kirby a little present. There's Alonzo, the child suggests, and goes into fits again, this time angering the two girls. Alonzo was hired to bring them down from the convent in his car: he's fat and he smells bad.

The mother asks the two girls what the Temple business is all about. They say that one of the nuns told them (they can hardly say it they are laughing so loud) that if they are ever in the back seat of a car with a boy and he wants them to, well, do something, they should tell him "I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost" and that will end it. They laugh and laugh, but the child and her mother see nothing funny. The child likes the phrase; it's like a gift.

The mother thinks the girls are awful, and wants to find something for them to do before they drive her nuts. The child suggests Wendell and Cory, two boys in Church of Christ bible school who visit their grandma down the road. The mother thinks this is a good idea, and calls their grandmother and arranges the date. The boys are coming for dinner, and will take the girls to the local fair.

The girls get all curled and painted--they are excited. They ask the child how she knows so much about "these men," but the child doesn't tell them that she has played war games in the yard with them. When the boys come, they are kinda gawky, and they sit on the porch and sing Jesus songs and play guitar and harmonica to the two girls in the porch swing. The child watches from the bushes. The girls try not to giggle, and then sing a song in Latin, and the boys think they might be getting made fun of, and call it a Jew song. The child starts screaming at them that they are big dumb oxes, Church of Christ oxes! She runs away and refuses to eat with everyone else in the backyard. She eats with the cook, who asks her why she is so ugly acting, think she so smart, all the time.

The girls and the boys go to the fair, and the child goes up to her room and can hear the fair, see the lights, and feel the excitement from several blocks away. She went last year on the day for school children. Certain tents were closed, because they were only for adults.

The child thought those tents looked medical, so she decided she would grow up to be a doctor. But the she decided to be an engineer--then a saint, because then you would know everything. She imagined being a martyr, shot, not boiled in oil. Not torn to lions. She imagines a scene where she tames all the lions and converts them, the Romans try to burn her (unsuccessfully) and then they cut her head off and she goes to heaven. The child also knows that she is too rude to be a saint, because she makes fun of the Baptist preacher. She goes to bed, remembers that she didn't say her prayers, gets up and says them and kind of hangs by her bed thinking of all kinds of things: dogs and girls and then the boys, Wendell and Cory. She thanks God that she is not in the Church of Christ.

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