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

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A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND: BOOK SUMMARY / STUDY NOTES

A LATE ENCOUNTER WITH THE ENEMY

CHARACTER LIST

General Sash
Major George Poker Sash, renamed General Tennessee Flintlock Sash twelve years ago by a motion picture company, is a 104-year-old survivor of the Civil War. He is barely in his senses. He can't remember much of the past, but knows that he likes pretty girls and parades, and can't stand history--which people are always wanting him to represent. He is in a wheelchair and is very cranky.

Sally Poker Sash
The General's granddaughter is about to graduate from college with an elementary teaching degree. She is in her thirties, and has only gone to college because she had to--she started teaching before such measures were necessary. She is fatalistic--all things go against her--and her greatest desire is to get her grandfather on stage at her graduation ceremony.

John Wesley
Sally's nephew, who is enlisted to wheel the old man onto stage at the graduation ceremony. He is a boyscout, and also a bit of a ham, and he mostly likes drinking coke.



CONFLICT

The story revolves around the question of whether General Sash will live long enough to attend Sally's graduation and if he will embarrass her terribly if he does attend. The general does not care for public appearances, unless they involve parades and pretty girls--for him, a graduation ceremony sounds deathly grim. Sally is determined to get him there, because his presence will bring her some honor, and that's about all she cares about.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist might be General Sash, the antagonist Sally--or the other way around! They are pitted against each other, not overtly, but by circumstance and personality. Sally is rather selfish in her desire for his presence on stage no matter what, and the old man has a one-track mind: pretty girls. He doesn't want to represent history. He can't even remember it.

Climax

John Wesley finally wheels the old man on stage, but the weather is hot and the old man feels a hole opening up in his head. He only vaguely realizes what is going on around him, as the whole widens and he tries to "run" from the approaching black figures in the ceremony.

Outcome

When John Wesley wheels the old man off stage, and directly over to the coke machine, he is wheeling only a corpse: the old man has died on stage.


SHORT SUMMARY (Synopsis)

Colonel Sash, one hundred and four years old, never doubted that he would live to see his granddaughter's graduation: living had become a habit of his. But he preferred pretty girls and parades, to ceremony and processions. But he agreed to sit on stage and be seen.

Sally wasn't sure he would live. The world had a way of turning against her. For twenty summers she had gone to the state teacher's college to work on her degree, because somebody had decided that teachers had to have them. She should have been resting, summers. That she came home each fall and taught exactly the way they told her not to was not enough revenge. She wanted her grandfather on stage at the graduation, to show all those upstarts where she came from, what was behind her and not them. She wanted to stand on that stage and say "See him!" and show the courage, honor, and pride of her background. She even dreamt about it. One night she woke up screaming "See him!" and turned to see the old man near her bed wearing only his hat and a terrible expression on his face.

He liked to sit on stages in his uniform, though it wasn't a real uniform. He wasn't a general, and couldn't remember the Civil War or being a colonel. He didn't like being asked questions about the past because he only remembered one past event, which took place twelve years ago: he was asked to come to an event put together by a motion picture company, and they gave him the uniform to wear, and renamed him General Sash, and put him in a parade with lots of pretty girls. He liked to sit on the porch and tell visitors about it, about all the pretty girls surrounding him. They gave him a sword, too. And they gave Sally Poke a corsage, "As big as her head," the colonel would snarl.


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