Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
PLOT SUMMARY (Synopsis)
The family is planning a vacation in Florida, but the grandmother points out that there is an escaped murderer loose there, and she wouldn't take her family to such a place! She wants to go to east Tennessee. Her son, Bailey, tells her she can stay home, then. The children roll their eyes at her--they know she can't stand to be left behind. She tells June Star not to be so smart.
The next morning she is first in the car. She is smartly dressed (so they know she is a lady if there is an accident and she dies) and has her cat hidden in a basket at her feet, so Bailey won't see--he won't like her bringing the cat. She sits in the back between John Wesley and June Star. Their mother is still dressed in her slacks with a kerchief tied around her head. She is holding the baby.
The grandmother warns her son not to drive too fast, and she points out the sights to everyone--it's a pretty day. The children say Georgia is ugly, and she tells them they should be proud of their native state--children were more respectful in her time. She sees a Negro child standing in the door of a shack; she tells everyone to look at the cute pickaninny and says she would paint that picture if she could, it was so cute. The children point out that the child was wearing no pants--the grandmother says he probably doesn't have any, being that he is poor and doesn't have lots of things like they do.
She holds the baby, points out a plantation grave yard, they eat their lunch, and play a guessing game--what do the clouds look like? But John Wesley and June star get in a fight. The old woman tells a story about one of her suitors, long ago, who used to bring her a watermelon every Saturday--and he became a rich man. She should've married him.
They stop for lunch at a roadside place, The Tower. The owner, a man with a pot belly named Red Sammy, is working on a truck and his wife, a tall burnt woman, takes their order. The mother plays the juke box, and then June Star tap dances on the dance floor. Red Sammy's wife says she's cute: "Would you like to come be my little girl?" June Star says "No, I certainly wouldn't," and the woman grins again, this time strained. The grandmother tells June Star that she should be ashamed of herself, talking like that.
Red Sammy comes in and talks to them--after he tells his wife to hustle with their food--and he and the grandmother have a discussion about how folks are different now and how a good man is hard to find. She tells him that he is a good man--she can tell. The wife brings the food and agrees that you can't trust anyone, not anyone at all--she's looking at her husband. When they talk about The Misfit, she exclaims that he would come right here, she wouldn't be surprised at all. Her husband tells her to shush and the old lady says that Europe is to blame for all the problems nowadays--the way they act over there.
They get back in the car and drive on. After a while, the grandmother thinks she remembers a plantation she once visited in this area. She suggests they go and the more she talks about it the more she wants to go. Bailey says no. She tells the children that the house had a secret panel--even though it really didn't. Sure enough, the children harass their father: they want to see the secret panel, they never get to see anything, the baby starts fussing, and Bailey pulls over. Ok, he says, Just this once, and don't ask again. The grandmother tells him the road leading to the plantation is a mile back and he turns the car around.
It's a dirt road. It twists and turns and doesn't look well traveled, though the scenery is pretty. Bailey threatens to turn around if the house doesn't show up soon. Then the grandmother suddenly remembers: that house was in Tennessee. She reddens, and shifts her feet and upsets the cat, who jumps up onto Bailey's neck and he loses control of the car and they roll over off the road and the mother and the baby fall out. Everyone is all right--the mom has a broken shoulder, that's all--and the children are delighted with all the fuss. June Star is disappointed that no one was killed. She watches the grandmother crawl out of the car, her clothes and hat all disarranged.
They are all shaken, and the grandmother thinks she has internal injuries. There is a dark woods nearby, and they are below the road. They see a car coming, in the distance, and the grandmother gets up and waves for help. The car comes slowly, and then it stops. There are three men: two younger ones, and the driver. They all get out slowly and look down, and they all have guns. The driver doesn't have a shirt, and wears glasses. The children tell him they turned over twice, and he corrects them: he saw the whole thing, and they turned over once. He is solemn. Too calm. And doesn't move to help. When John Wesley asks about the gun, the man tells the mother to keep her children with her, and quiet. June Star sasses him, and the grandmother shrieks that he's The Misfit, she recognizes him! Bailey cusses her out, and the man tells her that it would have been better for them all if she hadn't noticed.
The grandmother tells him that he wouldn't dare shoot a lady, and also tells him that he must come from good people--she can tell. He shouldn't call himself The Misfit, she days it doesn't sound good. The Misfit says it's a beautiful day, and Bailey decides he's going to take over and tells everybody to hush up. The Misfit tells Bobby Lee to take Bailey and his son over to the woods and take care of them. Bailey objects, goes, and then at the edge of the woods shouts back that he'll just be a minute. The old lady tells him to come back right this instant. Then she tells The Misfit, again, that he must be good people, not common, and he tells her that his own daddy said he was different from other people. He apologizes for not having a shirt on in front of the ladies. The grandmother says that he might find one in Bailey's suitcase, and he says he'll look, but doesn't move. The mother asks where her husband is, and The Misfit tells them that his dad was a "card" and knew how to avoid the authorities. The grandmother tells him that he could be honest, if he tried. He could have a nice life. She asks him if he prays. They hear pistol shots in the woods, and he says no, he doesn't pray, though he used to be a gospel singer. He's been many things, been in the service, too, even seen a woman flogged.