“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” Study Guide
This study guide is designed for classroom use as an activity and, in addition to some relatively brief notes on O’Connor and the story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” provides questions for roughly sixty-to-eighty minutes of small group and/or class discussion.
The questions are designed, in large part, to be open enough to allow for various creative and critical ideas to be brought into the discussion and these questions aim to encourage conceptual analysis of the story’s themes.
In other words, most of the discussion questions are not set at the level of reading comprehension but instead pitched to the level of analysis. (That just means that this resources is best suited to grade levels 11 and up where students can be expected to bring a certain level of reading skill to the story. I use these materials in English 101 for college freshman.)
And while the questions are geared toward developing ideas for a literary analysis essay, several of the questions are more “technical” and provide the opportunity to practice applying some literary terms.
There is a short quiz included as a reading check that can double as the basis of a reading comprehension review of the story.
While it is best to have students read the story once on their own before sharing these materials with them, some of the notes may be helpful as an introduction to the story before reading. That is, of course, up to you.
- 5 Question Reading Check Quiz
- Brief Notes on Flannery O’Connor & Southern Gothic Literature
- Essential Literary Terms – Irony & Foreshadowing
- Brief Introductory Notes on “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”
- Discussion Questions
- Notes & Discussion on Dealing with Racist Language, Sexism , etc. in Classic Literature
- Composition Conventions: Citing from Fiction
- Essay Ideas and Essay Prompts
- Critical & Thematic Ideas for “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”
[Please note: this resource is a study guide for the single short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” It is NOT a study guide for O’Connor’s book-length collection of short stories by the same title. ]
Some materials included here also offer notes on writing about literature (conventions for how to cite from fiction). For more resources dedicates specifically to composition conventions and strategies for writing about fiction, take a look at some of our other instructor resources.
There is a section of the discussion early on here that addresses the elephant in the room of classic literature – racist language. This section offers an a-political and un-charged opportunity for students to consider for themselves how to best evaluate language usage in fiction that is now problematic.
In the case of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” it is the N-word that crops up. While we can certainly understand that the term is used in a way to show the grandmother’s anachronistic and outmoded way of thinking and speaking and so decry this kind of racist terminology, we should still pause to consider our own response to this kind of language – as readers and as educators. This is a thorny territory, but it is also a fruitful area for important critical thinking.
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