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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 / LITERATURE NOTES

THE DISPLACED PERSON

SHORT SUMMARY (Synopsis)

Mrs. Shortley found out what the Displaced Person was up to with the Negroes, but she wasn't going to tell Mrs. McIntyre. Even her husband could hardly believe it. She thought it was the priest's doing, and she vowed to keep her eye on him She started reading her bible, and believed that it was up to strong people like her to make sure that right prevailed. The priest would come and gawk at that peacock like an idiot, carry feathers away like a bouquet. He was leading the whores of Europe to the cleanliness of America. One day she had a vision, a great throbbing sun in the sky, and heard the word "Prophesy." The children of wicked nations would be butchered. Then she walked straight to the house and found the priest there--she hid behind some boards and listened to him talk to Mrs. McIntyre about the Guizacs, and money. Mrs. McIntyre tells the priest that she plans to let the Shortleys go!

Well! Mrs. Shortley marched straight to her house and started packing--she wouldn't wait for her husband to be fired! He comes in and perceives the situation immediately, and they pack all night, and the loaded car takes off at dawn, all the Shortleys and their stuff crammed inside and on top. As they drive off, they drive by the Negroes heading to the barn for morning milking, and they think that Mrs. McIntyre is going to get a rude surprise. . . .

After a bit, Mr. Shortley stops the car and asks where they are going. Where? asks Mrs. Shortley. Where? She begins banging around the front seat, in some sort of fit. She grabs things, and rolls, and then goes still--looking blankly at the landscape of her true country.


PART II

Mrs. McIntyre and Astor clean the barn and talk. She is glad the Shortleys are just gone, she didn't have to fire them. Astor reminds her that he is still there, always has been. She catches his meaning, but ignores his comment. He liked the Judge's old saying: that as soon as he got too poor to pay others for their work, the world might get back on its feet. Mrs. McIntyre finds this attitude irresponsible, considering all she has to deal with. Now she has someone who has to work-- not like all the worthless people she's had before. He agreed--the Pole is different than the others. Way different. She says times are changing--and that if she didn't hold all this together, none of them would have jobs. Astor leaves the barn muttering, and she reminds him that the Judge is not the one running things anymore. But Astor had known how things had gone all along--he didn't like her other two husbands, the ones she divorced. Mrs. McIntyre knew Astor snooped around her private business.


She married the Judge because of his money, all right, but she also liked him. The three years they were married were the happiest of her life. She was as shocked as anybody that he turned out to be as poor as he always claimed. The damn peacocks are only left over from when the Judge kept them, only because they looked rich. She was sorry the Guizacs had to struggle, but she had had to struggle too, and she had survived. She was proud of that survival.

She saw Sulk walking and looking at something in his hand. When she asked to see it, he didn't want to show it. She made him. It was a picture of a girl, about thirteen. Who is it? she asked. He told her that this was Mr. Guizac's cousin, and that she was going to marry him. Mrs. McIntyre can't believe it, and asks for more details. He tells her that the girl is older now, has been in a camp, and he is giving Mr. Guizac some money for her travel and she will come here and marry him.

A dollar a week. Still, he doubts it will happen. Mrs. McIntyre is outraged. She tells him she will get his money back. Then she goes into the house and lies on the bed and bemoans the fact that they are all alike, all these people who work for her and defile things. One family even took the statue off the Judge's grave when they left. She didn't have the money to replace it--no one in the world was poorer than she.

She got in the car and drove out to the field, waited for Mr. Guizac to bring the tractor around and then asked to have a word with him. She tells him that he can't be serious, marrying that girl to a Negro. He tells her that the girl is older now, has been "in camp" three years, has no mother or father. He shows her another picture: the same girl, sixteen now, a scarecrow. Mrs. McIntyre remembers Mrs. Shortley's warning, that the man understands more English than he claims. Mrs. McIntyre tells Mr. Guizac that she doesn't want to hear any more about this ridiculous business, that he has a good job here, and that she is not responsible for the world's misery. He says "Ya," and gets back on the tractor.

She stands on the hill watching him maneuver the tractor. He is just like all the rest, she thinks. But more energetic. But so is she. She surveys her place, including the graveyard, where the Judge lies. He must be grinning.


PART III

Father Flynn comes to visit, and Mrs. McIntyre has to drink some whiskey just to get the nerve to talk to him. She tells him that Mr. Guizac is not satisfactory, because he does not understand the Negroes. But Father Flynn doesn't really listen in confrontational situations. He waits, and then tries talking about his interests--the fabulous bird, the peacock, for instance. The peacock fans his tail, and Father Flynn is so amazed, he says that "Christ will come like that!" Mrs. McIntyre says that she is not responsible for all the extra people in the world, and that Mr. Guizac didn't have to come here. He says that he came to redeem them, and absently shakes her hand, and leaves.

Mr. Shortley returned. Mrs. McIntyre saw the black car drive up and realized she had missed Mrs. Shortley something terrible. Mr. Shortley got out, and said that his wife had seen through the Pole from the first, and that the Pole killed her and she was dead.

Mrs. McIntyre felt terrible about Mrs. Shortley for days. She rehired Mr. Shortley, though she really wanted his wife. They agreed that it would be a relief to see the Pole leave, and Mrs. McIntyre promised to fire him and give Mr. Shortley back the dairy job. Mr. Shortley said he didn't care for foreigners, since being in the war, and that one looking like Mr. Guizac had thrown a grenade at him. Mrs. McIntyre reminds him that Mr. Guizac is a Pole, not a German. Mr. Shortley says they are all alike to him.

The Negroes were happy to see Mr. Shortley, because he didn't make them work so hard, though he was even slower than ever without his wife. Mrs. McIntyre was irritated by seeing the Pole working around the place, so fast and efficient. He got work done quickly, but she had a moral obligation to her people, to Mr. Shortley who had fought in a war, not Mr. Guizac who merely took advantage of coming to this country. She meant to tell the priest her reasoning on his next visit, before she fired Mr. Guizac, but then the priest didn't come on his monthly visit.

Mr. Shortley gets disgusted with her weakness and reminds her that he is a veteran--this has an effect on her. He also knows that Mr. Guizac would have his own place in no time, he works so darn hard. Mr. Shortley notices that Mrs. McIntyre doesn't look so good, since she's had other white help on the place, that Pole.

The old priest finally comes for a visit, and in the middle of his preaching about Jesus, Mrs. McIntyre impatiently says that she wants to talk serious. She repeats her objections, about having an obligation to her people, not those who just want to take advantage of what they get. Father Flynn doesn't really look at her, or really want to listen. She gave him the whole lecture about how they were all the same, the people she hired, and how they all took advantage of her and that she wasn't made of money. He leaves.


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