From the beginning of the story, a seemingly happy family appears before the reader. They are going on a road that will turn into a tragedy for them. This short story is about evil and grace. However, it has many different interpretations.
Flannery O’Connor’s short story first appeared in 1955. It possesses all the distinctive features of the author’s style. In particular, it shows the contrast of violence and humor, and religious philosophy. The author carefully portrays each character. The southern family consists of typical characters: dad, mom, three children, and an elderly grandmother. The lady insists that when moving from Virginia to Florida, they stop in Tennessee. On the roads, there is a fugitive criminal with his gang. The family drives into a ditch, and the car turns over (due to grandmother’s fault), and then a killer appears.
The old woman recognizes him because she has seen the photo in the newspaper and tells him about it. His henchmen take the children, mother, and father into the forest. Meanwhile, The Misfit talks in private with the grandmother. The woman’s attempts to beg for mercy are unsuccessful. The whole family dies in the end. The grandmother’s behavior on the last page of the story received controversial interpretations.
One of the opinions states that her selfishness forced her son to change the route of the trip. For the same reason, she took the cat (the cause of the accident). When her relatives were killed, she tried to save her life and bribe The Misfit. The grandmother did not keep her mouth shut and told the bandit that she recognized him. Her quote, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” in this context seems to be just as false as her previous manipulation of her family members.
According to another point of view, true grace descended on the grandmother in the face of death. By her attempt to caress the criminal, she atones for her previous sins. The bandit realizes her spiritual transformation. He remarks that she could be a good person if the barrel of a gun were pointed at her every day. The theme of the story is that there is a vast and indisputable evil in the world. The Misfit in the story symbolizes the evil that has escaped, and people have nothing to confront it.
On the other hand, the behavior of the family members led to a catastrophe. In the course of the narration, the children are criticized for their lack of respect for elders. They have a terrible example to follow, as their parents do not treat their grandmother best. Her son, Bailey, does not consider her opinion and refuses many whims, even the minute ones. For example, taking a cat on the road would not have caused much trouble if it had not been hidden. We can interpret the story’s moral in the following way: people are evil. Their callousness is the root of their tragedies.