Cars and driving are emblems of American culture, and have defined American lifestyle and identity. American cities are built around the car, and so is the urban and suburban sprawl. It is no small coincidence, therefore, that both Flannery O'Connor and Dagoberto Gilb use a car as a central symbol in their short stories. In O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find," a road trip turns deadly when the family runs into a group of escaped convicts on their way to Florida. Florida makes a brief appearance in Gilb's short story, "Love in L.A.," too, as protagonist Jake mistakes Mariana's heritage for being Cuban since her license plates are from Florida. Like "A Good Man is Hard to Find," "Love in L.A." centers around cars and driving as the central motifs, but in Gilb's story, the ending is not gruesome. Although "Love in L.A." And "A Good Man is Hard to Find" are set in two entirely different places and time, both are quintessentially American tales. Their characterization, symbolism, irony, and moral codes are all similar; but there are some critical differences between the two texts in terms of theme and tone. Both "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "Love in LA" encapsulate some aspect of American culture, but O'Connor's story is about the death of dreams, whereas "Love in L.A." is about the persistence of hope.
In terms of characterization, Jake in "Love in L.A." is similar to the grandmother in "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Both the grandmother and Jake are essentially optimistic people who come across as being innocent if not totally naive. This innocence works in Jake's favor, whereas it causes the death of the grandmother in "A Good Man is Hard to Find." In "Love in L.A.," Jake's innocence and naivete are what cause him to flirt with the girl whose car he just damaged. On the other hand, the Grandmother's innocence and naivete only cause her to talk too much, which lands the entire family into trouble. To impress the children, the grandmother tells them about a house with a secret panel. The children want to go so badly that they, along with the grandmother, pester Bailey until he turns off onto the dirt road where they encounter the Misfit and his fellow convicts. Moreover, the grandmother talks in front of the Misfit, telling him that he is a "good man" when he is killing her entire family before shooting her. Both Jake and the grandmother have optimistic views of human beings, but unlike the grandmother, Jake is able to make his naivete turn into luck.
Mariana in "Love in L.A." And both Red Sammy and the children in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" also represent innocence. Whereas both Jake and the Misfit exhibit some deviant qualities, Jake's innocent white lies are nothing nearly as severe as the Misfit's murderous intentions. Bailey's character has no counterpoint in "Love in L.A." In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," he is the father of the children and the son of the Grandmother.
Symbolism in "A Good Man is Hard to Find," and "Love in L.A." is remarkably similar in spite of their different characterizations. Both are stories that focus on the motif of driving and cars. In fact, both stories also center on a car wreck as a precipitating event in the story. In "Love in L.A.," the freeway represents Los Angeles in total, as it is known for its traffic. As Jake points out, "the peculiar gray of concrete, smog, and early morning" represents the city of L.A. (p. 423). The freeway also represents the pursuit of one's dreams. People come from all over the country seeking fame and fortune in Hollywood, and the road is the medium of reaching those dreams. Moreover, Jake gets into the car accident while he is daydreaming about his ideal car with its "crushed velvet interior." Cars represent dreams. In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," a car becomes a vehicle of death, not dreams. This parallels the motif of death that is represented by the town of "Toombsboro," overtly named after a grave. The Misfit's car is broken, a chance incidence that places the family in the…