The grandmother's values focus on appearances and status. She wants to present the appearance of a lady of substance to her family and the world. Some examples of this concern with appearances include her affectations of a worldliness that she does not have, as when she cites the newspapers, and...
The grandmother's values focus on appearances and status. She wants to present the appearance of a lady of substance to her family and the world. Some examples of this concern with appearances include her affectations of a worldliness that she does not have, as when she cites the newspapers, and her way of dressing to impress. She is wearing a hat and gloves for a car trip, which women of a certain social class did in that era. We can see this affectation when she talks about her suitor, Mr. Teagarden, who bought Coca-Cola stock and became wealthy. Of course, had she married this man, she would not have the miserable family she has now. She also looks back fondly on her younger days visiting plantations with their white-columned mansions.
The grandmother's concern with status also causes her to make several racist remarks in the story, as when she incongruously and cluelessly calls a poor black child without any pants a "pickaninny" and says she wants to paint a picture of him. She also uses the n-word casually in her conversation. By elevating herself on the basis of race, she increases her status in her own eyes.
The story encourages us to be critical of the grandmother by describing ways in which she is silly, vain, annoying, and manipulative. She manipulates her son to drive down a dangerous road, she brings along her cat without telling anyone, she constantly complains and finds fault. In this way, author Flannery O'Connor is setting us up for the shocking conclusion when the grandmother has a breakthrough right before she dies.
During her conversation with the Misfit, the grandmother tries to flatter him by remarking that she knows he comes from a fine family and that he does not have any "common blood." She is appealing to him on the basis of shared status. The grandmother is so wrapped up in trying to unsuccessfully manipulate the Misfit that she does not appear to notice that he is orchestrating the murder of her family. The grandmother does urge the Misfit to pray several times and says that Jesus will help him, but the Misfit responds that he doesn't need any help. They go along in this manner until the grandmother shouts "Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady! I'll give you all the money I've got!"
Indeed, although the grandmother says more pious words, she shows little to no sense of spiritual purpose until the second before she is shot by the Misfit, when "the grandmother's head cleared," and she seemed to authentically recognize the humanity in the distraught Misfit as he struggled to understand his and the world's relationship to Jesus Christ. In that instant, O'Connor, a devout Catholic, shows us that the silly, vain, contemptible grandmother has been redeemed through grace.