Faulkner and O’Connor Discussion Questions
1. How is Emily Grierson both protagonist and antagonist in this story? How would you
characterize the townspeople in their varying attitudes and treatment of her? In what
ways is Emily both an outsider and a pillar of respectable society in her town? What
symbols in Faulkner’s story signify this contradiction in her social status?
2. How does Homer represent the New South? Pinpoint other symbols of the Old and
New South in the text. Which characters and figures, besides Homer, represent the
Old and New South? Also, explain how key passages in the text represent a
competition of Southern paradigms and of character types.
3. Discuss O’Connor’s interrelated themes of manners, appearances, and social
hypocrisy. Show just how the author balances these themes against that of
sociopathy and chaos. How do the Grandmother, Red Sammy, and the Misfit
embody in various ways these themes? Examine carefully the conversations between
the Grandmother and Sammy and between her and the Misfit for evidence. Touch on
the ironic tang of the title. How does it encapsulate the story’s theme?
4. Trace the power struggles in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” first between Bailey and
his mother and then between the Misfit and the Grandmother. How does the former
contest set up the battle of wits between the Grandmother and the sociopathic Misfit?
How does O’Connor at the very beginning of the story foreshadow the final scene?
5. Both “The Devil and Irv Cherniske” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” contain dark
wood scenes in which the veil of orderly life is utterly and irreversibly rent and tossed
into chaos. This trope of the dark wood proves prevalent in literature throughout the
world: the Garden of Eden in Genesis, Dante’s Divine Comedy: Inferno, “Little Red
Riding Hood,” “Hansel und Gretel,” Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream,
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and The
Scarlet Letter account for a few notable examples. How do the dark wood scenes in
the fictions by Boyle and O’Connor rewrite Genesis? Who, in each case, is recast as
Adam, Eve, and the serpent?