In "Greenleaf,"" the derisive and contradictory tones reflect Mrs. May's attitude, which stems partially from the unlikely success of the unrefined Greenleaf family, and the absolute failure of herself and her unpleasant sons. Throughout the story, Mrs. May holds the Greenleafs in utter contempt and fails to grasp why people such as them can experience the slightest achievement. Mrs. May spends fifteen years obsessing with the Greenleaf faults, and lifting herself up by constantly putting them down.
Flannery O'Connor uses tone and diction to convey the superior level in society, which Mrs. May considers herself to be a participant in, and the crude level in society, in which she regards the Greenleafs. "'And in twenty years, Mrs. May asked Scotfield and Wesley, do you know what those people will be?' Society, she said blackly- (206). Mrs. May detests that the Greenleaf line will continue to flourish, while her sons will most likely die without producing heirs. "'Jesus, she said, [Mrs. May] drawing herself back, would be ashamed of you. He would tell you to get up from there this instant and go wash your children's clothes!- (205). Mrs. May feels superior to Mrs. Greenleaf, because she's different from anyone that Mrs. May has ever known and terms her and her clan as "scrub-human."".
Detail plays an enormous part in "Greenleaf,"" for it shows how wrong Mrs. May is in her assumption that being a Greenleaf means little or no success in life. "She [Mrs. May] opened the milking room door and stuck her head in and for the first second she felt as if she were going to lose her breath. The spotless white concrete room was filled with sunlight that came from a row of windows head-high along both walls. The metal stanchions gleamed ferociously and she had to squint to be able to look at all- (211). Flannery O'Connor uses details to show how wrong Mrs. May is in her perception that being a Greenleaf meant filth, stupidity, and no move toward prosperity.