Is the story more symbol or allegory?
The story is certainly more allegorical than symbolic. The bizarre discussion of Christology that takes place between the Grandmother and the Misfit in paragraphs 129–136 seems intended to remind readers of the errors of religious perception that lead people not to salvation but rather to disaster. The grandmother waffles philosophically, trying to use Jesus as a means of saving herself even though she shows no other understanding of Jesus, prayer, or religion. Certainly, everyone in the story is in need of redemption. Thus Bailey’s automobile is a symbol, a microcosm, of people who experience anger, annoyance, humor, deception—all the ills that flesh is heir to. Allegorically, the trip is a voyage toward arguable and arbitrary goals, and the disastrous diversion and encounter suggest the need for a more rigorous modern teleology. Without a clearer vision, the story is suggesting, people will continue to be subject to the whims of chance and the irony of their situation.