Before the arrival of Lena Grove, Byron Bunch had lived in Jefferson for seven years. During these years, he had worked six days a week at the planing mill, working overtime on Saturday afternoons and keeping an accurate account of his own time. On Sunday, he was always in a country church many miles away
leading the church choir. Thus Byron Bunch was essentially isolated from the community. His only acquaintance was the Reverend Gail Hightower, who was also an outcast completely isolated from the community.
The community had never noticed Byron except in a casual way to comment upon his idiosyncrasies until he became involved with Lena. Merely by her passivity and her simple questions, Lena forces Byron to become involved in life. After revealing to her the identity of Joe Brown, Byron then feels responsible for her. This feeling of responsibility draws Byron out of his lethargic existence and forces him into the stream of life. He in turn tries to involve Hightower, who struggles against Byron's interference. Hightower has lived too long in his isolation to see that Byron must feel responsible for Lena.
Byron's actions are the outcome of more than thirty years of routine monotony and celibacy. Although he has never done anything that is wrong, Byron has never really been committed to life. But with the appearance of Lena, he is forced to become involved in society. His potential redemption is that he is able to live outside himself and commune with another person; and even though this involvement was forced upon him, his strength and salvation lie in the fact that he willingly accepts the responsibility for his actions. Not only does he commit the necessary acts of preparing for Lena's child and acting as her protector, but also when he follows after the fleeing Brown and confronts him even though he knows that he will be beaten, he exceeds the demands made upon him. Thus Byron, after willing his own isolation earlier, has involvement forced upon him which he willingly accepts.
Thus, while Byron is not a strong or particularly admirable character, he does change from an isolated man living a vegetable life to a person now involved and committed to living.