Although Bailey does not answer her (thereby showing a complete lack of respect for her), the incident provides an ironic foreshadowing to the end of the story.
When Bailey fails to respond to her pressure, the grandmother attempts to get her daughter-in-law, a dull young woman with a face "as broad and innocent as a cabbage," to help her convince Bailey to go to Tennessee rather than Florida because the children, John Wesley and June Star, have not yet visited Tennessee.
The Misfit, the pathological killer who murders an entire family in this story, was apparently fabricated from newspaper accounts of two criminals who had terrorized the Atlanta area in the early 1950s; Red Sammy Butts, according to another critic, may have been based on a local "good ole boy" who had made good and returned to Milledgeville each year, on the occasion of his birthday, to attend a banquet in his honor, hosted by the local merchants.
O'Connor's treatment of the characters in this story reinforces her view of man as a fallen creature.
Briefly, the story depicts the destruction of an altogether too normal family by three escaped convicts.
The thematic climax of the story involves an offer of grace and the grandmother's acceptance of that gift as a result of the epiphany she experiences just before her death.When the family leaves for Florida the next morning, the grandmother, against Bailey's express order forbidding it, smuggles the family cat, Pitty Sing, into the car with her because she fears it would miss her too much, or that it would accidentally asphyxiate itself if left behind.The cat does survive; ironically, however, it is responsible for the auto accident which leads to the family's death, and, contrary to the grandmother's view of her importance to the cat, it befriends the man who murders the entire family. The events leading up to the death scene itself are designed by O'Connor to display the foibles of the family and to create a sense of foreboding.Shortly after leaving Atlanta, the family passes Stone Mountain, a gigantic outcropping upon which are carved, in bas-relief, images of the long-dead heroes of an equally dead Confederacy.The grandmother, dressed so that "in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady," carefully writes down the mileage of the car in anticipation of her return home.There does seem to be an inability on the part of the characters to enter into any meaningful conversation; the grandmother irritates her son by asking if he wants to dance when his wife plays "Tennessee Waltz" on the nickelodeon — which costs a dime; June Star, who has just performed a tap routine, displays her lack of manners by insulting Red Sammy's wife with the comment, "I wouldn't live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks." The grand-mother, Red Sammy, and his wife discuss the evil nature of the times and decide that, although they themselves may be good people, "a good man is hard to find." By concluding that Europe is entirely to blame for the way things are now, they successfully avoid any responsibility for the human condition.As the family leaves The Tower, the children are again attracted to the gray monkey which attracted their attention when they first arrived.She indulges in back-seat driving, acts as a tour guide, and attempts — by citing the conduct of children in her time — to chastise John Wesley and June Star for their rude remarks concerning "their native states and their parents and everything else." Her fraudulent propriety is immediately undercut, however, when she calls the children's attention to a "cute little pickaninny" (a black child) standing in the door of a shack they are passing.When June Star observes the child's lack of britches, the grandmother explains that "little niggers in the country don't have the things we do." As the children return to their comic books, we are given a number of life-versus-death images which prepare us' for the coming catastrophe.Bailey's wife also ignores the plea, but the non-vocal disrespect of the parents finds voice through the children.Their conduct toward the grandmother emphasizes the disrespect which is characteristic of the entire family.