"The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey's mind. Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy. He was sitting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the orange sports section of the Journal. 'Now look here, Bailey,' she said, 'see here, read this,' and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head."
The story opens not with an image but with a sound ? that of the grandmother talking, incessantly and determinedly, as she does throughout the tale. Thus, in these opening sentences, we are already being prepared for The Misfit?s remarks at the story?s end, when he characterizes her as ?a talker.?
But what is more curious about this sentence is the impersonal reference to ?the grandmother.? The character will be referred to this way throughout the story, once as the ?old lady? and never by her proper name (a telling omission, given that the grandmother considers herself a ?lady,? and would no doubt be appalled by anyone referring to her as other than ?Mrs. _______ ). Nor do the members of her family address her by terms of kinship: Bailey never calls her ?Mother? in the story, and John Wesley and June Star abstain from using ?Grandma.? The narration insists on our perceiving her as ?the grandmother? through repetition of the phrase and by omitting references to any other aspect of her identity.
What might be the purpose of this narrative strategy? Whose viewpoint does the phrase ?the grandmother? indicate? Certainly not that of the grandchildren; to John Wesley and June Star, their grandmot...
... middle of paper ...
... encounters The Misfit and his cohorts. Like the grandmother, The Misfit wields a threatening instrument, only his is deadly. And the allusion to snakes suggested by ?rattles? returns in that episode, when the grandmother touches The Misfit?s shoulder: he ?springs? back ?as if a snake had bitten him.? As one who embraces evil, The Misfit recognizes its venom in others.
With this story, O?Connor violates a fiction convention: She begins her story with one protagonist, the grandmother, but ends with another, The Misfit. The text can be read as a struggle for narrative authority; The Misfit usurps the grandmother?s perogative to ?write? the story by killing her, as well as her family. He has the last word. Even typographically, The Misfit?s dominance is signified by the uppercase letters in his name, in contrast with the lowercase ?t? and ?g? of the grandmother.
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