We are presented with an incredibly vivid description of the narrator's grandmother when she first meets her. The narrator tells us how she is overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of Barbados, never having left the States before, and so it is only when she is alerted to her grandmother's approach by her mother's tightening hand that she looks up and sees a "small, purposeful, painfully erect figure of the old woman." The description that follows gives us a real insight into the grandmother's character:
Her face was drowned in the shadow of an ugly rolled-brim brown hat, but the details of her slight body and of the struggle taking place within it were clear enough--an intense, unrelenting struggle between her back which was beginning to bend ever so slightly under the weight of her eighty-odd years and the rest of her which sought to deny those years and hold that back straight, keep it in line.
We can see how the intense determination of her grandmother is expressed in her constant conflict to keep her back straight when gravity is pushing it towards the ground. She is certainly an incredibly strong and resilient individual who will not give in easily, which thus sets the stage for the conflict that will occur in the rest of the story between the narrator and her grandmother.