Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 530
Miss Leonora Logan, a lifelong resident of Thomasville, Tennessee, and retired school teacher of English, Latin, and history at the local high school, has left on one of her frequent automobile trips. The narrator, her former pupil, now a middle-aged man, is concerned that she will never again be seen alive. Indeed, the city fathers have condemned her house to build a new school on the site.
Miss Logan’s house, “Logana,” is not really the best site for a new school, but racial integration is coming to Thomasville, and the townspeople want to avoid zoning problems by clearing away the small houses belonging to blacks on her property. Perhaps more important, however, is the grudge the town has held against the Logan family for several generations. They feel the Logans tried to keep the town unspoiled and thereby retarded progress; Logans prevented the town from becoming the county seat, prevented the railroad from coming through the town, and prevented other manifestations of change. Now the town has gotten revenge on the last remaining Logan, elderly Miss Leonora, who taught the town’s children for fifty years.
As weeks pass with only an occasional postcard from Miss Leonora, people in town worry about her. They feel guilty about their role in her departure and project their guilt onto her: She is making the town look bad.
The narrator goes back in time to recall Miss Leonora’s youth, her intellectual interests—which were not shared by the town—her teaching, and her automobile trips. A beautiful young woman, Miss Leonora started her teaching career at the Thomasville Female Institute, which burned in 1922; then she taught at the consolidated high school. Over the years, she adopted promising young men as her protégés and encouraged them to go to college, mostly unsuccessfully. The narrator is one such former protégé. Miss Leonora was constantly instructing her pupils and the town, even when she seemed to digress in her classes, and continues this role after her retirement.
Periodically, Miss Leonora goes on automobile trips to various byways in the South. On the road, she affects the role of a grande dame in pearls and gloves or a farmer in overalls. She stays in antiquated tourist homes and loves to tell their owners about her town, Thomasville. Now Miss Leonora is gone again, perhaps for the last time. The narrator has been sent with other former students to break the news to Miss Leonora that her house has been condemned. The narrator is surprised to find her packed and ready to leave on a journey. She has also dropped the grande dame and farmer attire for a new persona as a modern, elderly, white gentlewoman. She has cut and blued her hair and wears a stylish dress. As she and the narrator have tea for the last time, she tells him she appreciates him and her other pupils and apologizes for trying to instruct them with her ideas. Then she leaves. The townspeople are left to worry about Miss Leonora and their role in running her out of town. The narrator worries as well and ponders Miss Leonora’s role in Thomasville.