Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

There is a legend about the black locust tree of which Miracle Boy’s cane is made: It has such a will to live, it is said, that when used for fence posts and put into the ground, the posts grow roots and sprout limbs again. Like the cane, Pinckney Benedict’s “Miracle Boy” reflects the cruelty of being uprooted from safety, as well as the powerful forces of renewal and redemption.

Like many of Benedict’s stories, “Miracle Boy” deals with loneliness and isolation. Boys grow up without parents, physical differences are shunned, and children are cruel to one another. However, through his character Lizard, Benedict finds in this story a way to breech the desolation: compassion. Caught in an act of moral corruption, Lizard awakens to the humanity of Miracle Boy and begins to see beyond the walking stick, heavy brogans, and small-town infamy.

Unlike many of Benedict’s stories, “Miracle Boy” is filled with strong religious symbolism. Following in the southern grotesque tradition, the title character serves as a deformed, disempowered, yet transformational figure. His slow shuffling gait and calm and forgiving behavior demonstrate wisdom beyond his years. Although he never preaches, his actions speak to Lizard in a way that prompts a change in the boy’s behavior. This transformation culminates when Lizard creates a ladder from nails, climbs to the top of the post, and clasps onto the powerful electric transformer. This ladder...

(The entire section is 475 words.)