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A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
A CIRCLE IN THE FIRE
This story has a rather simple shape, and when we are told about Mrs. Cope's fear at the beginning, we have an idea of what is bound to happen. When the boys show up, we know they are trouble--much like we know the Misfit in the title story, even before he reveals himself. Mrs. Pritchard's saying "there's nothing you can do about," over and over, seems to paralyze Mrs. Cope. At the same time, Mrs. Cope is determined to be thankful--almost as if she can ward off evil with being thankful for the good--and the result leads her directly into a compromised position: She wants to be nice to the boys, but she can't handle them.
Mrs. Pritchard is a typical sort of character in this stories. The hired woman is the one person the female farm-owner talks to, hears out, and must answer to in some sense. It's a powerful position, on the farm and in the story. These hired women are also difficult, a bit mean, and very aware of their positions. Mrs. Pritchard is notable for her penchant for disaster stories. In one part of the story she is even upset when there is no disaster for her to focus on.
The visitation of misfortune and the question of thankfulness are most evident in this story. When should one be thankful, and when cautious? If one is not thankful enough, will misfortune be greater? Does Mrs. Cope bring on her own troubles, or is her helplessness a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Misery is discussed as well. Mrs. Pritchard is fascinated by misery--almost as it were pure evidence of evil. The woman in the iron lung dies, with her baby, which also brings up the question of innocence and responsibility. In a sense, both Mrs. Cope and the boys are innocent, and responsible. Mrs. Cope sees how the combination of innocence and responsibility in the boys is disastrous--they have obviously not had someone looking after them--but it is so different than anything she has experienced, she has no idea of how to respond. Her own misery is the result.