What does the grandmother mean when she says, "Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children"?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Grandmother, frightened and disoriented, murmurs these statements to the Misfit. The Misfit's gang has just killed her son, her daughter-in-law, and her three grandchildren including a baby. The Grandmother is aware that her own life is on the line.

The Misfit has put on her son Bailey's shirt, which is yellow with bright blue parrots. As they have a conversation about God and Jesus, and whether Jesus really was the son of God, the Misfit begins to sound like a child who is going to cry, saying that if he'd been at the resurrection, he'd know if Jesus had really been raised from the dead. He'd then know how to live. At that moment, the Grandmother's head clears, and she sees the Misfit as fully human for the first time. This is a profound moment of grace for her. She sees the man, who is wearing her son's shirt as God might see him: as a child, as one of her babies. She calls him one of her babies, one of her children, because she able, for an instant, to perceive his suffering humanity. The passage in full reads as follows:

His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother's head cleared for an instant. She saw the man's face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, "Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest.


sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

O’Connor’s apocalyptic fiction attempts to show her readers their limitless need for God’s mercy. In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," she does this through the interaction of the grandmother and the Misfit. We would normally expect that a grandmother should represents goodness while a serial killer should represent evil. O’Connor, however, seems to hold precisely the reverse in this case. Similarly, we would expect the old woman to represent life and the Misfit death; again, O’Connor suggests the opposite, believing that life without spirituality is a living death, and through meeting the Misfit -- even though the meeting is fatal -- the old woman gains a chance of attaining salvation. In saying, "Why, you're one of my babies!" she recognizes his cosmic function. Like the old woman’s children, the Misfit has been raised without spirituality; and without spirituality, as the Misfit remarks himself, one might as well "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." In effect, the Misfit has said that if a person is not willing to accept God, then he or she might as well throw propriety to the winds, and go out and become a serial killer. In O’Connor’s view, to reject God’s love in small ways is just as sinful as rejecting his love in big ones, because without God there is no value system left. 

cmcqueeney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The grandmother is finally showing care for someone other than herself. Throughout this entire story, the grandmother is selfish and acts superior to everyone around her. She has no real concern for anyone. In the final moments of her life, she finally sees beyond herself, and although it seems strange, the one she reaches out to is the Misfit. This story is about receiving grace, and the grandmother reaches out in grace to the Misfit when she says this line. He shrinks from it and kills her saying that she would have been a good woman if she had a gun to her head all the time.  The Misfit acknowledges that the grandmother has shown concern for someone other than herself for probably the first time in her life.

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A Good Man Is Hard to Find

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