Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

O’Connor is at her satiric best in capturing the posturing of intellectuals in their assumed superiority over their backward southern brethren. From the beginning of the story, Asbury is depicted as a dilettante whose manner—a disdain for simplicity and directness—betrays his phoniness and insincerity, and O’Connor uses several characters as foils to reveal these unpleasant truths about Asbury.

The first is Asbury’s sister, Mary George, a no-nonsense, unsympathetic observer of Asbury’s eccentricities; she sees through Asbury’s pose as a maligned artist and refuses to accept his role as a helpless invalid. Morgan and Randall, the two black dairy workers, are astonished by Asbury’s naïveté when he drinks the unpasteurized milk, and, later, when they are asked to say their good-byes to Asbury on his “death bed,” they tell him that he looks fine and on the road to recovery. Finally, Dr. Block, the unsophisticated and unassuming physician from Timberboro, deflates Asbury’s “tragedy” when he uncovers the real source of the illness that New York doctors could not diagnose. The pomposity of Asbury is thus finally laid to rest.