Alfred Carr is an immature, troubled youth who lives with his mother and works at a drugstore.
While his siblings have left home, Alfred still lives with his parents. As he prepares to go home one evening, his employer, Mr. Carr, catches Alfred pilfering from the store. When Mr. Carr threatens to call Alfred's parents to inform them that he is having Alfred arrested, Alfred says that his father works nights as a printer and is not at home.
"Who's at home?"
"My mother, I guess."
"Then we'll see what she says."
Alfred's bravado leaves him when Mr. Carr makes this announcement because he dreads his mother's "contempt" for his behavior. In addition, he is also anxious about how she will act when she arrives. But Mrs. Higgins is composed and respectful when she arrives. In fact, she is able to persuade Mr. Carr to not call the police.
Without being alarmed, while being just large and still and simple and hopeful, she was becoming dominant there in the dimly lit store.
Mr. Carr agrees to not press charges, saying that he will merely let Alfred go. As they walk home, Alfred becomes aware of his mother's strength and reserve. Later, as he watches his mother move around the kitchen, Alfred realizes that he is proud of her. Then, as he watches her, Alfred sees how her hand shakes, and he is ashamed of what he has done to her. "At that moment his youth was over." Alfred feels that he truly sees his mother for the first time. He has matured.
Alfred Higgins is a character who grows during the course of the story. At the start, Alfred is an incompetent, immature young man who has difficulty holding a job. He also lies and is portrayed as selfish. Later on, however, Alfred grows and begins to become more mature, especially after his mother helps him after he is caught stealing.