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Religion in young lives is a recurring theme in O'Connor's fiction. All kinds of visions, connections, and desires are played out in the minds of those too young to understand the possible motives and results. Rather than count this a tragedy, or a travesty, it is suggested that religion is very real to young people, that they crave or at least connect with the idea of the supernatural, the order of good/evil, and the idea of a grand paternal figure.
O'Connor's fiction is often sighted as "bizarre" for its religious depictions, but she saw her intent as reflective--in a positive way--of the living fact of religion and the interest it stirred in people, how it affected their lives at a very basic level.
Misunderstanding is at the forefront of this story. Harry does not know that he is killing himself. He doesn't know who Jesus is, and doesn't understand what he is doing when he takes Bevel's name. He also doesn't know that Mr. Paradise is trying to save him from drowning.
The preacher does not want to be misunderstood as only a healer, and Harry's mother does not understand what the baptism means to Harry. The missed connections are what drive the plot of the story: even the pig incident lends power to what happens to Harry at the last moment.
Also in this story, we see the writer's reliance on hints--and the use of brand names. O'Connor was one of the first writers to use brand names in her stories, and she places them with exacting intent. Harry takes a roll of Life Savers with him to the river. The irony is quite direct.