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A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
A CIRCLE IN THE FIRE
Mrs. Cope, as her name implies, is trying "get by," to hold on to her farm and raise her little girl. She is a widow, and she has hired help. She is constantly trying to tell herself and others around her that she is very lucky to have what she has got, though she is always worried that she is about to lose it. She is also constantly reaching her limit of patience. She is small, and always looks astonished.
Mrs. Pritchard is the wife of the hired farmer. She talks to Mrs. Cope about most things, and always loves a disaster. She is a large woman with "ferreting eyes," the opposite of Mrs. Cope. She loves to tell stories of misfortune, and likes her predictions of others' misfortunes to some true. She begins to imitate Mrs. Cope's "lucky," speeches.
Powell is the young boy who travels from Florida to see the farm, Mrs. Cope's farm, where he and his family once lived. His father is now dead, and his mother remarried, and he appears to be drifting freely with his two friends. He wears glasses, often seems distracted, and claims that Mrs. Cope's farm is his favorite place in the whole world. He is a bit creepy.
When Powell shows up with two scrappy friends at Mrs. Cope's farm one day, she doesn't quite know what to do with them. When they start causing trouble, she can't seem to get rid of them. They are only boys, and the question arises: how much damage can they do?
Protagonist and Antagonist
Mrs. Cope is the protagonist and the boys the antagonists. But Mrs. Cope is also her own foil: she doesn't know how to handle the boys, though she thinks she does. The boys are only boys, and it is clear that they have not had difficult lives. In this sense, the stage is merely set for the playing out of the conflict
After Mrs. Cope finally tells the boys they must absolutely leave, they hide for a couple of days and then in a fit of anger set fire to her woods. It is the height of the dry season.
The hired help runs to put out the fire, but it has gone out of control. Mrs. Cope's daughter watches the misery on her mother's face and can hear the boys shrieking wildly on the other side of the fire.