.. the back window. He waved. ‘He didn’t have any britches on,’ June Star said. ‘He probably didn’t have any,’ the grandmother explained.
‘Little niggers in the country don’t have things like we do. If I could paint that picture,’ she said. The grandmother’s pretty picture is ruined when the little boy shows his bum to her. The old women’s attempt to look beyond a blatant reality and make it pretty is being mocked by O’Connor. The author has blended the line between the satirical and the lyrical to form a beauty that would not be considered a standard pretty picture.
The same blending of the satirical and the lyrical occurs later in the story with the children playing with Red Sammy’s monkey: The children ran outside into the white sunlight and looked at the monkey in the lacy chinaberry tree. He was busy catching fleas on himself and biting each one carefully between his teeth as if it were a delicacy,. O’Connor practically compares the chattering children to the chattering pet. She also subtly mocks the grandmother’s concern for manners: Red Sammy’s monkey eats his fleas as though he were eating a gourmet meal. The white sunlight and the lacy chinaberry tree become the monkey’s intelligence and mannerisms.
O’Connor’s writing is so clear in this passage, and her entire work for that matter, because she will not separate what pleases her from what disgusts her. O’Connor incorporates into her writing tenderness and compassion but these caring qualities are intertwined with caricature and satire to avoid superficiality and insincerity. For example, when the family is traveling through Georgia, the grandmother’s ability to nurture is demonstrated but still eluding to her triteness. The grandmother offered to hold the baby and the children’s mother passed him over the front seat to her. She set him on her knee and bounced him and told him about the things they were passing Occasionally he gave her a faraway smile.
They passed a large cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island. ‘Look at the graveyard!’ the grandmother said, pointing it out. ‘That was the old family burying ground. That belonged to the plantation.’ ‘Where’s the plantation?’ John Wesley asked. ‘Gone With the Wind,’ said the grandmother.
‘Ha. Ha.’ The contrast between the angelic baby and the old grandmother is apparent, however the feeling the reader gets here is not disgust but rather a warm and intimate feeling. Rather abruptly the passing of the graveyard interrupts this gentle exchange. The five or six gravestones are foreshadowing the family’s fate with the Misfit. The emotional exchange between the baby and the grandmother is a reminder to the reader of the family’s mortality. The grandmothers joking and light- heartedness lighten the tone of the scene.
This scene marks an incredible emotional accomplishment for the family. The story never breaks its comic book format, even as the family is dragged off a few at a time to be put to death. The deaths are framed in a series of comic book squares. Irony again sets in when the only survivor is the cat, which the grandmother would not leave home by its self for fear it would brush against one of the gas burners and accidentally asphyxiate himself,. Even the massacre of the family is comically written.
The line between tragedy and comedy has become completely blurred by the time the family has gotten into the accident. The Misfit is as much a cartoon as the grandmother. The Misfit is a good man because her grace sees into his soul and glimpses salvation. This moment of grace causes the grandmother to be the ultimate dynamic character, changing from judgmental and superficial to forgiving and compassionate. The missionary tactics she initially uses for her self-preservation result in a spiritual triumph. Due to this encounter, the grandmother finds herself in a significant position and emerges a sort of heroine.
This act of grace while facing death is a form of compassion the grandmother takes with her to eternity, and this innate grace allows the grandmother to recognize that spiritual ties of kinship join her and the man who vehemently shot her family. The Misfit’s response to her grace coincides with his statement, No pleasure but meanness, and when he says, She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life, he only proves his necessity in the grandmother’s religious realization and the contrast between the superficial exterior and the spiritual grace of her soul. O’Connor saves her most subtle writing for the grandmother. She combines every contradiction that seems to make up the grandmother’s personality into one sentence. ‘Jesus!’ the old lady cried. ‘You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady! I’ll give you all the money I’ve got! For the first time in her life, the grandmother experiences a moment of clarity.
When she reaches out to touch the Misfit, this is truly an unselfish act. She knows that her fate is sealed and she too will end up dead like the rest of her family. She is waiting for the inevitable to happen. She has nothing to gain by reaching out to the Misfit, and that makes her gesture all the more amazing. She is not thinking of herself but of the pain and heartache that the Misfit has gone through.
After the Misfit shoots the grandmother three times in the chest, the reader is able to see the Misfit’s eyes when he takes off his glasses they are red-rimmed and pale and defenseless looking; this is what provokes the grandmother’s selflessness. The point in which O’Connor brings her two extremes together is at the very end with one sentence. The Misfit says She would have been a good women if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life,. The satirical and the saintly have completely blended together in this one sentence. Basically, the only way the grandmother could have been good and sustain that goodness was if someone were to threaten her with death daily. There is something about the grandmother that has made the Misfit uncomfortable.
The old women’s behavior is a mystery that confronts not only the Misfit but also the reader’s traditional ideas about goodness. English Essays.