What do the Misfit’s last words “it’s no real pleasure in life” mean in the context of the story? Are we supposed to blame “the grandmother” for the outcome of the story?
Please answer these questions (in two paragraphs is enough for each and please write the answers under their questions.
1. Why do you think O’Connor introduces some characters, such as “the grandmother,” by their family roles and others by their names? How is this significant to the story?
2. What do the Misfit’s last words “it’s no real pleasure in life” mean in the context of the story? Are we supposed to blame “the grandmother” for the outcome of the story?
And respond to these comments in one paragraph is enough for each in INFORMAL WAY (about the reading)
The comments are about the second question which is (What do the Misfit’s last words “it’s no real pleasure in life” mean in the context of the story? Are we supposed to blame “the grandmother” for the outcome of the story?)
First comment: This is a story about faith and redemption. The opening of the story sets up two “villains,” a self-centered grandmother and an escaped convict.
We see first hand how the grandmother’s actions affect her family. Her young granddaughter remarks that she is afraid to miss out on anything the family does. The grandmother’s disinterest in travelling to Florida is obvious even to her grandson. Further, we see the grandmother’s perspective on the world; she misses the “good old days” and bemoans the younger generations, who lack manners.
Meanwhile, we don’t know anything about the Misfit besides his nickname and that he escaped from prison, but from just that information we infer his role in the story.
The climax of the story puts these two unrighteous people together, with one’s life in the other’s hands. The grandmother does what she knows: she talks. She tries to give the Misfit a righteous reputation in order to encourage him to live up to it (A tactic taught in the famous book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, which was popular at this time and which the grandmother might well have read). She calls him a good man; she says she doesn’t believe he ought to be living on the run. This is selfish. The grandmother is trying to talk her way out of the situation. We are meant to believe that the grandmother is partially at fault for the deaths of her family members, but we are not meant to blame her or pass judgement ourselves. Her mistakes were avoidable but mostly innocent: she forgot that the house was in Tennessee, and she didn’t realize that identifying the Misfit would endanger them.
Finally, when the grandmother’s family is lost, she accepts her fate, and has the clarity to forgive him and welcome him to her family. This is the first sentence the grandmother has spoken that isn’t serving her own motives. She redeems herself by reaching out to the Misfit and offering him a place to fit in, a mother to care for him.
We do not know whether the Misfit would have taken pleasure in killing this family if not for the grandmother’s final words. We are not led to believe he is really a good man. However, the story ends with his discomfort in what he has done. That he takes no pleasure in killing a selfish old woman is a sign that he has room to grow. O’Connor mentions in her essay on suspense that the Misfit is young and has enough life ahead of him for this event to weigh on his spirit. This is a religious story, and the audience is meant to have faith that the man will one day be redeemed and seek forgiveness from God for his sins. That hope is some justification for all the violence.
Second comment: The Misfit’s last words were intended as a response to Bobby Lee’s remark on the killing, “Some fun!” This hints that the Misfit might have not enjoy the event one bit, but due to the circumstance, he had to do it. In contrast to Bobby Lee who happily pulled the trigger.
The Misfit’s words is also related to the act of the grandmother who reached out to his shoulder and called him her child, a “graceful” act as the author have called it. But due to the Misfit’s nature and his doubt on humanity, he thought the grandmother is trying to trick him, like a snake, and thus with he shoot the grandmother dead.
The outcome of the story is simply a plot point to develop the character of the grandmother, from a person who seeks benefit from other, into a graceful figure who accepts a convict into her arm. Even if the grandmother was a silent senile old woman, we can’t guarantee the 3 convicts would have not shoot the family dead. The reasoning that the Misfit gave regarding the grandmother’s realization that he’s the Misfit is only an excuse for the family to blame their dead to the grandmother, and to also give the killer a reason to pull the trigger other than their murderous intent (which Bobby Lee shown).
Furthermore, had the grandmother been a nice old lady, reader would not have come to despite her as much as we do, and thus we would easily miss her final moment of gracefulness at the end, which contrast to her mouthful nature prior.