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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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