Flannery O'Connor, one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, is often noted for her satirical writing style and her comically inane characters that often meet gruesome and grotesque ends. The "uninitiated" might even be tempted to consider her work a confusing and pointless portrayal of senseless violence perpetrated in large part against ignorant innocents. To do so, however, would be to do a great disservice to the genius of her work, and to deny the existence of multiple layers and levels on which her stories can be interpreted. Much of O'Connor's genius lies in her use of sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious, yet always striking imagery and symbolism. In her story A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O'Connor expertly uses the images of the sun and the woods to both foreshadow and witness the action as well as to symbolize the religious and moral dilemma confronting the story's main characters.
O'Connor, who in her brief life of thirty-nine years wrote over 30 short stories and two highly acclaimed novels, repeatedly used the sun and the woods as active components of her fiction. This has led many to claim that the use of such imagery may be considered her own personal signature. In the introduction to O'Connor's second collection of short stories, Everything that Rises Must Converge, friend and editor Robert Fitzgerald points out that these images appear "frequently enough to be termed a signature, immediately stamping the story a Flannery O'Connor work"(xxxii). It is through these images that reader is given signals and clues not only to the action of the story, but into the mind and deeper agenda of the author.
In the story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, it is not the image of the sun, but rather the descriptions of sunlight, and later the altogether lack of a sun that underscores so much of the story's action. The first reference to sunlight, found shortly after the family begins their road trip, states, "the trees were full of silver-white sunlight, and the meanest of them sparkled"(O'Connor(b)119).