The Grandmother Essay
The grandmother’s hat, which she wears for the sole purpose of showing that she is a lady, represents her misguided moral code. When the grandmother prepares for the car trip with the family, she dresses up to be prepared for a car accident so that anyone seeing her dead body would know that she’d been a lady. The grandmother seems to be entirely unconcerned with the fact that she’s dead in this scenario and oblivious to the fact that other people—including her three grandchildren—would have probably died as well. For the grandmother, the only thing that matters is her standing as a lady, a ridiculous concern that reveals her selfishness and flimsy moral conviction. When the grandmother does become involved in a car accident, the hat—like her moral convictions—falls apart. After she is thrown from the car and the family is facing the Misfit, the brim of the hat falls off. She drops the broken hat as her self-conception as a lady dissolves. “Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (428) In this story, the sky represents three variations of a single symbolic theme: that the sky represents a state of mind. “When there was nothing else to do they played a game by choosing a cloud and making the other two guess what shape it suggested.
John Wesley took one the shape of a cow and June Star guessed a cow and John Wesley said, no, an automobile, and June Star said he didn’t play fair, and they began to slap each other over the grandmother.” At the beginning of the family’s journey, the sky is full of clouds. If you picture the sky as a container of thought, then clouds would represent blockage of thought, misinterpreted meaning, and blindness. Just as the two children have their own perceptions of what the clouds really look like, so does the grandmother have her own perception of what goodness really is. There are “clouds” in her mind that prevent her from seeing the “sun” — or the light of truth. She interprets the clouds in her mind as the real thing. “[The Misfit] looked at the six of them huddled together in front of him and he seemed to be embarrassed as if he couldn’t think of anything to say. ‘Ain’t a cloud in the sky,’ he remarked, looking up at it. ‘Don’t see no sun but don’t see no cloud neither.'” When the family encounters the Misfit, the sky is devoid of everything.