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Free Study Guide-A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O'Connor-Free
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A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND

A TEMPLE OF THE HOLY GHOST

PLOT SUMMARY (Synopsis)

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.

The girls come and wake her up, giggling. The child asks them what they saw, and they tell her, except for one thing. She demands to know, and they won't tell (they say she is too young to know) until she promises to tell them all about the time she saw some rabbits get born. They tell first: there was a tent, and inside you separated men from woman, but the stage ran through both parts. A person went from side to side, showing themselves. This person first made a speech you could hear from either side: God made me this way, and if you laugh or make fun you could be the same as this; this is God's will, I don't dispute it, and you must act like ladies and gentleman. Then the person lifted the dress they wore and showed that they were both man and woman. A freak. .

The child is fascinated. She can't imagine how it could be both man and woman without two heads. She tells them that the rabbit spit six babies out of its mouth. She crawls in bed and imagines the freak show as a religious ritual, with the invocation of God, Amens, and the freak presenting the Temple of the Holy Ghost-- everyone in the room is a Temple. The people clap softly.

The next day Alonzo drives them all back up to the convent. The child sits in front and sticks her head out the window because he smells so bad. The mother sits in back with the girls, and tells them how fun it has been and that they should come back and how much fun she had had with their mothers way back when. When they get to the convent a nun invites them to a benediction service, and they all go. The nun tries to hug the child but she gets out of the hug by putting out her hand, which the nun then grasps heartily. They go to the service, and right in the middle, the child's ugly thoughts stop. Her mind went empty, and then she thought of the freak in the tent. As they were leaving the nun hugged her from behind, big.

On the way home the child sat in back with her mom. She watched Alonzo's fat neck. He told them that was going to go to the fair, but it got closed down. Why? the mother asks. He tells them that some preachers got together and brought the police and they shut it. The child looks out the window and imagines the sun as a host soaked in blood, dipping below the horizon and leaving the sky all like a red road.

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