Julian changes over the course of the narrative. On one hand, he initially understands his role as a child. He tends to his mother and accompanies her even though he detests it. Yet, as the bus ride develops, he examines his mother's clinging to the past and what he considers to be his own progressive attitudes towards race as a reason why he has become "the adult." His mother's inability to accept the condition of what is almost makes her a child, in his own mind. When she is hit and falls to the ground, he assumes the role of the parent, standing over the child who has fallen down because of their own errors. As he says "You got exactly what you deserved," it is the line of a parent to a child, trying to teach a lesson. Julian uses his power as "the adult" to use the moment to teach the lesson about how she is infantile in her ability to accept the condition of race in America. This transformation into the adult becomes evident as he seizes this moment to lord over his mother, who has now become as helpless as a child:
“I hate to see you behave like this,” he said. “Just like a child. I should be able to expect more of you.” He decided to stop where he was and make her stop and wait for a bus. “I'm not going any farther,” he said, stopping. “We’re going on the bus.”
This is where the emotional change within Julian reaches its zenith, a feeling of power and superiority that an adult can experience over a child. Yet, all of this dissipates into helplessness when Julian reaches that his mother actually is dying and there is little he can do to help her. It is here where O'Connor develops his character as a true adult, complete with the emptiness and hollowness that often accompanies what it means to be older in a harsh and unforgiving world.