The first epiphany comes just as the grandmother utters her final words. Prior to this moment, she has proven a woman of much professed religion and great hypocrisy in the way she lives her life. For example, early in the trip, as they pass an African American child, the grandmother reacts with great prejudice:
"Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!" she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. "Wouldn't that make a picture, now?" she asked and they all turned and looked at the little Negro out of the back window. He waved.
Unbelievably, comments and thoughts such as this one do not conflict in the grandmother's head. She cannot see the gross ways she is misusing religion until the very end. When the Misfit approaches her wearing her now dead son's shirt, she suddenly realizes the humanity that links them. It is when she reaches out to touch him, showing likely the only forgiveness and acceptance he is likely to receive, that he shoots her. The grandmother's epiphany breaks her free from her superficial claims of religion. It is only through facing her own death that she has the clarity of true grace.
Her epiphany sparks an epiphany in the Misfit. Before her murder, the Misfit tells the grandmother that:
it's nothing for you to do but
enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness.
Yet after the grandmother's gesture, his epiphany emerges as his final words make clear: "It's no real pleasure in life." If performing acts of violence don't bring him pleasure, perhaps the door is left open for the Misfit to change.