The story is set in the South of America soon after the racial integration was enforced by the law in the country. It depicts how even after the integration, individuals are struggling to maintain their identity. The Whites are unable to accept this integration and the Blacks are trying too hard to assert their new found identity. Such is the prejudice among them that they are not able to see even the fundamental similarities between one another. This makes it extremely difficult for the people to connect with each other and form any kind of bond.
The author makes it very obvious to the readers that Julian’s mother has racist traits. She is skeptical of this integration reform and does not wish to travel in a bus, alone, because of the presence of the Blacks in the bus. She prefers the arrangement when no Black person is travelling in the bus. She firmly believes that Blacks and Whites are not equal and this integration law is no good. Her prejudice is deeply rooted in her upbringing where she has always seen Blacks placed much lower in the strata of the society. The story however marks the fundamental similarities between the Blacks and Whites but Julian’s mother ignores any such similarity. Just like Julian’s mother, Carver’s mother is also unnamed. She is wearing the same hat as that of Julian’s Mother and Julian is quick to point it out even to his mother. But she does not pay heed to the fact. Julian even terms Carver’s mother as her “black double”. However, the story manifests that Julian’s mother is unable to find any similarity because of her racist attitudes.
Julian believes himself to be morally superior than his mother and shows himself as vexed by his mother’s aristocratic ideals. But in practicality, he is no less patronizing than his mother. He considers Blacks as different human beings, much like his mother. He wants to talk to them to either irritate his mother or prove himself morally superior. The fact that he is unable to connect with Blacks is the product of his hollow ideals and beliefs.
The story further shows how the Blacks are not themselves freed of the crippled mentality. The constantly pervasive racism does not allow them to trust anyone and make them only skeptical towards the Whites. The author through this story asserts that not only the Whites but the Blacks too have developed prejudices which in turn do not allow them to see the things as they are. The act of Julian’s mother giving Carver a penny is more out of her love towards children, than being a “hand out”. But the prevailing mistrust does not let Carver’s Mother consider it as an act of love and she explodes in anger, striking Julian’s Mother with her purse and refusing, what she thinks, is a hand out. The racist undertones of this society of which Julian’s Mother is also a part makes it impossible even for the other characters to consider it as a genuine act of love. The story concludes by suggesting that perhaps a society marred by racism is unable to forge connection and belief amongst people hence the eradication of these racist beliefs is the only possible solution to this inhumane issue.