The Ugliest Pilgrim Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Violet Karl is making a pilgrimage to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to have her disfigured face healed by a prominent television evangelist. Her injury resulted from a childhood accident when she accompanied her father to chop wood, and the head of the ax came off the handle, striking her in the face.

Throughout her journey, Violet keeps a journal about the things that she sees and the people whom she meets. With each settlement through which she passes, she praises the Lord for leading her one step closer to her salvation and cure. To these comments Violet adds her impressions of her fellow passengers and recounts how they pass the time during their journey from Spruce Pine, North Carolina, to her fabled Tulsa.

On the bus, Violet makes the acquaintance of three fellow passengers: an older white woman; a black soldier, Grady “Flick” Fliggins; and a white paratrooper, Monty Harrell. Each acquaintance adds to Violet’s growing need for acceptance. Each shows Violet that everyone is on some sort of quest.

When she first boards the bus, Violet’s only companions are the older white woman and the black soldier. She takes a seat beside the older woman, strikes up a conversation, and soon learns that the woman is on her way to visit her son in Nashville, where he works in a cellophane plant. The woman adds that she may make a permanent move to her son’s home.

After the older woman goes to sleep, Violet strikes up a conversation with Grady Fliggins and begins playing a game of draw poker. Grady seems not to care that Violet’s face is deformed. While they are in a snack bar during a rest stop in Kingsport, Tennessee, Violet and Flick meet a white paratrooper, Monty Harrell, who joins them on the bus and becomes the third player in the card game.

During the trip, Violet and the two young men discuss her reason for going to Tulsa. Monty...

(The entire section is 770 words.)