In "A Good Man is Hard to Find", Flannery O'Conner immediately establishes her concern with goodness, or the lack thereof, in mankind by combining the aspects of symbolism, fate and religious redemption that ultimately ends with a bleak assessment about human nature with no genuine redeeming characters present in the story.
O'Conner tells the tale of a family from the Southern United States in the 1950s whose vacation to Florida is abruptly ended when they run into a group of three malevolent characters led by an escaped convict named "the Misfit" after having a car accident. The story is told in the third person with the grandmother of the family as the protagonist. She is revealed as overbearing, self centered and manipulative from the beginning.
The tone is set as a twist of fate story in which all of the characters are vulnerable to the decisions that the grandmother makes.
Using subtle symbolism, O'Conner makes it certain that the reader does not become attached to any single character in the story by showing them in as negative a light as possible. The children in the story, June Star and John Wesley are both described as little tyrants yet the grandmother is clearly the worst of the bunch.
A Good Man is Hard to Find contains several examples of symbolism which help the reader prepare for what is to come. The number six, which can be seen as an unlucky number and the number of the beast which represents evil, as well as several references to death and dying were the most obvious, yet subtle clues that were frequently mentioned throughout the story. The first case emerged when the family drove past a cotton field and observed "five or six graves fenced in the middle of it" (O'Conner, p.248).