A Good Man is Hard to Find:
The Misfit as Satan
In Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find, religious symbolism abounds.
While critics do not dispute that there are underlying religious tones in the short story, it is
debatable what the various characters, events and settings specifically represent. Upon close
examination, there is evidence in the story to prove that the Misfit represents Satan.
In Peter 5:8-9 (The Bible, NIV) Satan is depicted as a prowling lion, surveying potential
prey “looking around for someone to devour.” He attempts to bring people of God down.
Grandma is the kind of prey that Satan would like to prey upon. She wants to be respectable, she
believes she is righteous and she considers herself a good woman. We do not see her good acts
until the end of the story, but there she tries hard to get salvation. She puts her hand to the Misfit
and says he is one of her children, as Jesus would say to all sinners. She forgives the Misfit in
this scene, as Jesus would do, if a sinner asks to be forgiven. The Misfit, in his full deviousness
and deceitfulness is repelled by Grandma’s offer of forgiveness, by the goodness that is still in
here. Grandma is reaching out to the Misfit in a tender, compassionate, loving way, but the
Misfit, who has only a soul of stone like Satan, kills her anyway. He shoots her three times, a
metaphor to the holy trinity. Grandma becomes the prey for the lion.
In John 8:44 (The Bible, NIV) the Devil (Satan) is described as the father of lies. “You
are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer
from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever
he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” In this
passage, Jesus tells us there is no truth in Satan’s tongue; he is a murderer and a liar. Again, the
parallels with the Misfit are very clear. The Misfit is a murderer and lies when asked why he
went to prison. He knew he had been put there for murder but did not want to admit he had
killed his own father.
Another point that proves the Misfit represents Satan is when he states that he wishes he
knew whether God raised the dead, because if he knew that he says, “I wouldn’t be like I am
now.” This is admission that without God there is no value system. The Misfit also states,
Jesus thrown everything off balance. If he did what he said, then it's nothing for you
to do but thow away everything and follow him, and if he didn't, then it's nothing for you
to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best you can-by killing someone or
burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but
In the Bible, Satan knows there is a God and a Heaven because he was thrown out of Heaven by
God. However, in the story, Misfit wants proof that God can raise the dead, because that is
something Satan cannot do. He wants proof that Jesus Christ is God’s son. The Misfit is saying
he would not have become a serial killer if He can raise the dead. He wants to blame God for the
place he is at and for the evil he has done. He puts himself on the same plane as God, but he can
never do that because God had the upper hand when he threw him out of Heaven. The Misfit
tries to make excuses for the evil person he has become by blaming it on Jesus. He states that if
he had proof that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of humankind and that forgiveness was
offered to everyone, then he might have become a different man. Another interpretation of the
Misfit is shown when he states “Jesus thrown everything off balance.” This could be a reference
to Jesus forgiving Adam and Eve’s original sin they committed in the Garden. The Serpent
(a.k.a. Satan) caused them to commit sin, and until Jesus came along, humankind carried that sin.
Jesus threw that off-balance when he died on the cross.
Another instance of similarity between the Misfit and Satan is when Grandma, in a
moment of compassion, reaches out to touch him. The Misfit recoils. He has never had anyone
touch him with love or pity because he is untouchable. He can never be touched by someone
good. Grandma has a sinful nature also, but she is not evil like the Misfit. Because of the
personality of the Misfit, evilness, vileness and sinfulness, Satan as the Misfit cannot reciprocate
kindness, tenderness or vulnerability. Satan would recoil if a Christian tried to offer him
salvation. Satan resists any attempt at cleansing because he is not made in God’s image. There
was no salvation for the Misfit in the story, because there is no salvation for Satan. However,
Grandma, sinful as she was, found salvation because she believed in Jesus Christ.
There are other characteristics that make the Misfit a simile to Satan. Satan lives actively
on this Earth. He does his dirty deeds daily. He is not confined to the hallways of Hell. He is
active on this Earth in the lives of ordinary citizens, trying to destroy lives, souls and people. He
intervened into the life of Grandma and her family and destroyed them all. People are the focus
of Satan because he wants to destroy those who love God and those who are loved by God. The
Misfit did exactly that to Grandma in the story. No one else in the family is shot three times as
Another analogy between Satan and Misfit can be based on Luke 10:18. where it states,
“I saw Satan fall like lightening from Heaven.” Satan was guilty of too much pride and
instigated a rebellion against God in Heaven. God reacted by kicking Satan out of Heaven, a
match so uneven, that Satan fell out fast as lightening. Satan fell from a group of angels who
were in heaven because he was very different from them. Misfit talks in the story as being a
“different breed of dog” from his siblings, another comparison to the Satan who was kicked out
of Heaven. Satan was a different breed of an angel.
While O’Connor uses religious symbols, similes and metaphors throughout her writing,
she specifically demonizes the Misfit. It is not by coincidence that the character traits and
actions of this character are so similar to what we know Biblically about Satan. It makes one
wonder what other masks Satan is hiding under on this earth.