Background

“My first issue of Kenyon Review come yestiddy and I felt an extremely learned sitting down analysis it.” —Flannery O’Connor

Perhaps no writer has had a longer and an ext productive connection with The Kenyon Review than Flannery O’Connor. Her first story to appear in the magazine was “The Life you Save may Be her Own,” which came out in the spring problem in 1953. O’Connor originally submitted the story as component of her application for The Kenyon review Fellowship in Fiction, sponsor by the Rockefeller foundation and awarded to O’Connor for the next two years by the magazine’s editor, john Crowe Ransom. Newly diagnosed with lupus, a debilitating autoimmune disease, O’Connor had actually moved home in 1951 come live with her mom on the family’s farm yard in Milledgeville, Georgia, and the fellowship helped to develop her as a significant voice in American fiction at precisely the moment when she was required to retract from the literature world. Indigenous 1953-1956, O’Connor published regularly in KR, consisting of such significant stories together “A circle in the Fire,” “The man-made Nigger,” “Greenleaf,” and also “The Comforts that Home.” 4 of these story – “The Life girlfriend Save might Be your Own,” “A one in the Fire,” and “The man-made Nigger,” and also “Greenleaf” – received O. Henry Awards.

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Born in Savannah, Georgia on march 25, 1925, Flannery O’Connor was a graduate that the Georgia State College because that Women and the university of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. She lived for brief periods in new York and Connecticut, and did a brief residence in ~ Yaddo, a writer’s nest in upstate new York, prior to returning house to Georgia when her health began to fail. Her first novel, Wise Blood, was published in 1952, and her very first collection that stories, A good Man Is hard To Find, in 1955. Her 2nd novel, The Violent Bear it Away, was released in 1960. She died on respectable 3, 1964, however her work ongoing to obtain acclaim after she death; she received the nationwide Catholic book Award in 1966 for Everything the Rises have to Converge and the National book Award in 1971 for The complete Stories the Flannery O’Connor.

The Life you Save might Be her Own

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The old woman and also her daughter to be sitting on your porch once Mr. Shiftlet came up their roadway for the an initial time. The old woman slid to the leaf of she chair and also leaned forward, shading her eyes from the piercing sunset through her hand. The daughter can not see far in front of her and also continued come play through her fingers. Return the old woman lived in this desolate point out with only her daughter and she had never watched Mr. Shiftlet before, she can tell, also from a distance, the he to be a tramp and also no one come be fear of. His left coat sleeve was folded up to present there to be only fifty percent an arm in it and also his gaunt figure provided slightly come the side as if the breeze were pushing him. He had on a black city suit and also a brown felt hat that was turned up in the front and also down in the ago and he lugged a tin tool box by a handle. He came on, at an amble, up her road, his confront turned toward the sun which showed up to it is in balancing itself on the height of a little mountain.

The old woman didn’t change her position until the was virtually into she yard; climate she rose with one hand fisted on her hip. The daughter, a large girl in a short blue organdy dress, observed him all at once and jumped up and began to rubber stamp and suggest and make excited speechless sounds.

Mr. Shiftlet stopped just inside the yard and set his crate on the ground and also tipped his hat at her together if she were no in the the very least afflicted; climate he turned towards the old woman and swung the cap all the way off. He had long black color slick hair that hung level from a part in the center to past the advice of his ears on one of two people side. His face descended in forehead for an ext than half its length and also ended suddenly v his features just balanced over a jutting steel-trap jaw. He seemed to it is in a young man but he had a look at of composed dissatisfaction together if he understood life thoroughly.

“Good evening,” the old woman said. She was around the size of a cedar fence post and she had actually a man’s gray cap pulled under low over her head.

The tramp stood looking in ~ her and also didn’t answer. He turned his earlier and faced the sunset. He swung both his whole and also his short arm up slowly so that they suggested an expanse that sky and also his number formed a crooked cross. The old woman watched him with her arms folded across her chest together if she to be the owner that the sun, and the daughter watched, she head thrust forward and also her fat helpless hand hanging in ~ the wrists. She had actually long pink-gold hair and also eyes together blue together a peacock’s neck.

He hosted the pose for virtually fifty seconds and then he picked up his box and came on come the porch and also dropped down on the bottom step. “Lady,” he claimed in a firm nasal voice, “I’d give a fortune come live whereby I could see me a sun execute that every evening.”

“Does the every evening,” the old mrs said and also sat ago down. The daughter sat down too and watched him through a mindful sly look together if he to be a bird that had come up an extremely close. That leaned come one side, rooting in his trousers pocket, and also in a second he brought out a package of chewing gum and also offered her a piece. She took it and also unpeeled it and also began come chew without acquisition her eyes turn off him. He offered the old mrs a piece yet she only raised her top lip to show she had actually no teeth.

Mr. Shiftlet’s pale sharp glance had currently passed over everything in the yard-the pump close to the comer of the house and also the big fig tree that three or 4 chickens to be preparing to roost in-and had actually moved to a burned where he saw the square rusted back of one automobile. “You females drive?” that asked.

“That vehicle ain’t run in fifteen year,” the old woman said. “The day my husband died, the quit running.”

“Nothing is like it offered to be, lady,” that said. “The human being is nearly rotten.”

“That’s right,” the old woman said. “You from about here?”

“Name Tom T. Shiftlet,” that murmured, looking at the tires.

“I’m pleasure to satisfy you,” the old woman said. “Name Lucynell Crater and daughter Lucynell Crater. What you doing about here, Mr. Shiftlet?”

He judged the car to be around a 1928 or ’29 Ford. “‘Lady,” the said, and turned and also gave her his complete attention, “lemme tell friend something. There’s among these medical professionals in Atlanta that’s bring away a knife and also cut the human heart-the human being heart,” the repeated, leaning forward, “out the a man’s chest and held the in his hand,” and he held his hand out, palm up, as if it to be slightly weighted v the person heart, “and learned it choose it was a day-old chicken, and lady,” the said, permitting a long far-ranging pause in i m sorry his head slide forward and his clay-colored eye brightened, “he don’t understand no much more about it 보다 you or me.”

“That’s right,” the old mrs said.

“Why, if he to be to take the knife and also cut right into every edge of it, he still wouldn’t understand no much more than friend or me. What you want to bet?”

“Nothing,” the old woman stated wisely. “Where girlfriend come from, Mr. Shiftlet?”

He didn’t answer. He reached right into his pocket and brought out a sack of tobacco and a parcel of tobacco papers and rolled self a cigarette, expertly with one hand, and also attached that in a hanging place to his top lip. Climate he took a box of wooden matches from his pocket and also struck one on his shoe. He hosted the burning match as if that were studying the secret of fire while it traveled dangerously toward his skin. The daughter started to do loud noises and also to point to his hand and also shake she finger in ~ him, but when the flame was just before touching him, that leaned down v his hand cupped over it together if he were going to collection fire come his nose and lit the cigarette.

He flipped away the dead match and blew a stream of gray right into the evening. A cunning look come over his face. “Lady,” the said, “nowadays, people’ll execute anything anyways. I deserve to tell you my surname is Tom T. Shiftlet and I come from Tarwater, Tennessee, but you never have seen me before: exactly how you understand I ain’t lying? just how you recognize my surname ain’t Aaron Sparks, lady, and also I come indigenous Singleberry, Georgia, or exactly how you know it’s not George Speeds and I come native Lucy, Alabama, or how you understand I ain’t Thompson Bright from Toolafalls, Mississippi?”

“I don’t know nothing around you,” the old woman muttered, irked.

“Lady,” that said, “people don’t treatment how lock lie. Probably the best I have the right to tell you is, I’m a man; however listen lady,” the said and also paused and made his tone much more ominous still, “what is a man?”

The old woman started to gum a seed. “What you carry in that tin box, Mr. Shiftlet?” she asked.

“Tools,” the said, placed back. “I’m a carpenter.”

“Well, if friend come out below to work, I’ll be able to feed you and give you a place to sleep however I can’t pay. I’ll tell you that prior to you begin,” she said.

There was no answer in ~ once and no specific expression ~ above his face. He leaned back against the two-by-four that aided support the porch roof. “Lady,” he said slowly, “there’s some men that some things mean more to them 보다 money.” The old mrs rocked without comment and the daughter watched the trigger that moved up and also down in his neck. He told the old mrs then the all most people were interested in was money, however he inquiry what a guy was do for. The asked she if a male was produced money, or what. That asked she what she assumed she was made for but she didn’t answer, she just sat rocking and wondered if a one-armed man could put a new roof on she garden house. The asked a many questions that she didn’t answer. That told her that he to be twenty-eight year old and had lived a varied life. He had been a gospel singer, a foreman ~ above the railroad, an assistant in an undertaking parlor, and he had actually come over the radio for 3 months through Uncle Roy and also his Red Creek Wranglers. He claimed he had fought and bled in the Arm business of his country and also visited every foreign land and that anywhere he had seen civilization that didn’t care if they did a point one means or another. He claimed he hadn’t been raised thataway.

A fat yellow moon showed up in the branches of the fig tree as if it to be going to roost there through the chickens. He stated that a man had to escape come the nation to view the people whole and that that wished he resided in a desolate ar like this whereby he might see the sun go down every evening like God make it come do.

“Are you married or are you single?” the old woman asked.

There to be a long silence. “Lady,” the asked finally, “where would certainly you discover you an chaste woman today’? i wouldn’t have any of this garbage I could just choose up.”

The daughter to be leaning really far down, hanging she head virtually between she knees, watching him v a triangle door she had actually made in her overturned hair; and also she suddenly dropped in a heap on the floor and began come whimper. Mr. Shiftlet straightened she out and also helped her get ago in the chair.

“Is she your baby girl?” he asked.

“My only,” the old mrs said, “and she’s the sweet girl in the world. Ns wouldn’t give her up because that nothing top top earth. She’s smart too. She can sweep the floor, cook, wash, feeding the chickens, and hoe. Ns wouldn’t offer her up for a casket the jewels.”

“No,” he claimed kindly, “don’t ever let any kind of man take her away from you.”

“Any male come after ~ her,” the old woman said, ” ‘ll have to stay approximately the place.”

Mr. Shiftlet’s eye in the darkness was concentrated on a part of the vehicle bumper that glittered in the distance. “Lady,” the said, jerking his short arm up as if that could point with the to her house and also yard and also pump, “there ain’t a broken thing top top this plantation that i couldn’t fix for you, one-arm jackleg or not. I’m a man,” he claimed with a sullen dignity, “even if ns ain’t a totality one. I got,” he said, tapping his knuckles ~ above the floor to emphasize the immensity that what he to be going to say, “a moral intelligence!” and also his face pierced out of the darkness into a shaft of doorlight and also he stared in ~ her together if he to be astonished self at this impossible truth.

The old mrs was not impressed through the phrase. “I told girlfriend you can hang around and work because that food,” she said, “if friend don’t mind sleeping in that auto yonder.”

“Why listen, Lady,” he claimed with a grin of delight, “the monks the old slept in your coffins!”

“They wasn’t as progressed as us are,” the old woman said.

The next morning he started on the roof that the garden house while Lucynell, the daughter, sat on a rock and watched the work. He had not been roughly a week before the adjust he had actually made in the ar was apparent. He had patched the prior and ago steps, built a brand-new hog pen, revitalized a fence, and taught Lucynell, that was fully deaf and had never ever said a word in her life, to say the word “bird.”

The large rosy-faced girl complied with him everywhere, speak “Burrttddt ddbirrrttdt,” and clapping she hands. The old woman watched from a distance, secretly pleased. She was ravenous because that a son-in-law.

Mr. Shiftlet slept on the tough narrow back seat that the vehicle with his feet the end the side window. He had his razor and a have the right to of water ~ above a crate that served him together a bedside table and also he put up a item of mirror against the ago glass and kept his coat neatly on a hanger that he hung over among the windows.

In the evenings he satellite on the steps and also talked if the old woman and Lucynell rocked violently in their chairs ~ above either side of him. The old woman’s three hills were black versus the dark blue sky and were visited off and also on by various planets and by the moon after ~ it had left the chickens. Mr. Shiftlet mentioned that the reason he had improved this plantation was due to the fact that he had actually taken a an individual interest in it. He stated he was also going to do the car run.

He had raised the hood and studied the mechanism and also he said he might tell the the auto had been built in the days when cars were really built. “You take now,” that said, “one male puts in one bolt and also another guy puts in an additional bolt and also another male puts in another bolt so that it’s a guy for a bolt. That’s why you need to ‘pay so lot for a car: you’re paying all those men. Currently if you didn’t need to pay yet one man, you might get girlfriend a cheaper car and one that had had a personal interest take away in it, and also it would certainly be a much better car.” The old mrs agreed with him the this to be so.

Mr. Shiftlet claimed that the trouble v the world was the nobody cared, or stopped and took any kind of trouble. He stated he never would have been able come teach Lucynell to say a word if that hadn’t cared and also stopped lengthy enough.

“Teach her to speak something else,” the old woman said.

“What you want her to say next?” Mr. Shiftlet asked.

The old woman’s smile was broad and toothless and also suggestive. “Teach she to speak ‘sugarpie,"” she said.

Mr. Shiftlet currently knew what to be on she mind.

The following day he started to tinker through the automobile and also that evening he told her the if she would certainly buy a fan belt, the would have the ability to make the vehicle run.

The old woman stated she would provide him the money. “You see that girl yonder?” she asked, pointing come Lucynell who was sitting on the floor a foot away, city hall him, she eyes blue also in the dark. “If the was ever a man wanted to take her away, I would certainly say, ‘No male on planet is going come take the sweet girl the mine far from me!’ but if he was to say, ‘Lady, i don’t desire to take she away, I want her ideal here,’ I would say, ‘Mister, i don’t blame friend none. Ns wouldn’t happen up a possibility to live in a long-term place and get the sweet girl in the people myself. Girlfriend ain’t no fool,’ I would certainly say.”

“How old is she?” Mr. Shiftlet request casually.

“Fifteen, sixteen,” the old mrs said. The girl was almost thirty but because of her innocence the was impossible to guess.

“It would certainly be a great idea to paint it too,” Mr. Shiftlet remarked. “You don’t want it to rust out.”

“We’ll see about that later,” the old woman said.

The next day that walked right into town and returned with the components he needed and a deserve to of gasoline. Late in the afternoon, destructive noises issued indigenous the shed and also the old woman rushed out of the house, reasoning Lucynell was somewhere having actually a fit. Lucynell was sitting top top a chicken crate, stamping she feet and screaming, “Burrddttt! bddurrddtttt!” yet her fuss to be drowned the end by the car. With a volley the blasts it emerged from the shed, relocating in a fierce and also stately way. Mr. Shiftlet remained in the driver’s seat, sitting very erect. He had actually an expression of serious modesty on his challenge as if he had actually just raised the dead.

That night, rocking on the porch, the old woman began her company at once. “You desire you an innocent woman, don’t you?” she inquiry sympathetically. “You don’t desire none the this trash.”

“No’m, i don’t,” Mr. Shiftlet said.

“One that can’t talk,” she continued, “can’t sass you back or use foul language. That’s the kind for you come have. Ideal there,” and she pointed come Lucynell sit cross-legged in she chair, stop both feet in her hands.

“That’s right,” he admitted. “She wouldn’t offer me any type of trouble.”

“Saturday,” the old mrs said, “you and also her and me can drive right into town and get married.”

Mr. Shiftlet eased his position on the steps.

“I can’t get married ideal now,” the said. “Everything you want to execute takes money and I ain’t obtained any.”

“What you need with money?” she asked.

“It takes money,” that said. “Some people’ll execute anything anyhow this days, however the method I think, i wouldn’t marry no mrs that i couldn’t take it on a trip like she to be somebody. I mean take her to a hotel and also treat her. Ns wouldn’t get married the Duchesser Windsor,” he said firmly, “unless I can take her to a hotel and also give her something an excellent to eat.

“I was increased thataway and there ain’t a thing I can do about it. My old mother taught me how to do.”

“Lucynell don’t also know what a hotel is,” the old woman muttered. “Listen here, Mr. Shiftlet,” she said, sliding forward in she chair, “you’d be acquiring a long-term house and a deep well and also the many innocent girl in the world. Friend don’t need no money. Lemme tell friend something: there ain’t any type of place in the world for a negative disabled friendless drifting man.”

The ugly words worked out in Mr. Shiftlet’s head prefer a group of buzzards in the peak of a tree. That didn’t answer at once. That rolled self a cigarette and also lit it and then he claimed in an even voice, “Lady, a guy is divided into two parts, body and also spirit.”

The old mrs clamped she gums together.

“Listen, Mr. Shiftlet,” she said, “my well never ever goes dry and my house is always warm in the winter and there’s no mortgage ~ above a thing around this place. You have the right to go to the courthouse and also see because that yourself and also yonder under that burned is a fine automobile.” She set the bait carefully. “You can have it painted by Saturday. I’ll pay for the paint.”

In the darkness, Mr. Shiftlet’s laugh stretched prefer a weary line waking up by a fire. After a 2nd he recalled himself and also said, “I’m only saying a man’s spirit means more come him 보다 anything else. I would need to take my wife off for the week finish without no regards at all for cost. I obtained to follow wherein my spirit says to go.”

“I’ll provide you fifteen dollars because that a week-end trip,” the old woman claimed in a crabbed voice. “That’s the best I can do.”

“That wouldn’t hardly pay for much more than the gas and also the hotel,” that said. “It wouldn’t feed her.”

“Seventeen-fifty,” the old mrs said. “That’s all I obtained so that isn’t any use friend trying come milk me. You can take a lunch.”

Mr. Shiftlet was deeply pains by words “milk.” he didn’t doubt the she had more money sewed increase in she mattress however he had currently told her he was no interested in her money. “I’ll make the do,” that said and rose and also walked turn off without treating v her further.

On Saturday the three of lock drove into town in the vehicle that the paint had barely dried on and also Mr. Shiftlet and also Lucynell were married in the Ordinary’s office while the old woman witnessed. As they came out that the courthouse, Mr. Shiftlet began twisting his neck in his collar. That looked morose and also bitter as if he had actually been insulted while someone organized him. “That didn’t meet me none,” he said. “That was just something a mrs in one office did, nothing but document work and also blood tests. What perform they know around my blood? If they was to take my heart and also cut the out,” that said, “they wouldn’t know a thing about me. It didn’t satisfy me in ~ all.”

“It satisfied the law,” the old woman said sharply.

‘The law,” Mr. Shiftlet said and spit. “It’s the legislation that don’t meet me.”

He had painted the car dark green with a yellow band about it simply under the windows. The 3 of castle climbed in the prior seat and also the old woman said, “Don’t Lucynell look at pretty? Looks favor a infant doll.” Lucynell to be dressed increase in a white dress the her mother had actually uprooted native a trunk and also there was a Panama hat on her head v a bunch that red wood cherries on the brim. Every now and also then her placid expression was changed by a cunning isolated little thought prefer a shoot of environment-friendly in the desert. “You acquired a prize!” the old mrs said.

Mr. Shiftlet didn’t also look at her.

They drove earlier to the residence to allow the old woman off and also pick up the lunch. Once they were prepared to leave, she stood staring in the home window of the car, through her fingers clenched roughly the glass. Tears started to seep sideways out of her eyes and also run along the dirty creases in she face. “I ain’t ever before been parted v her for two days before,” she said.

Mr. Shiftlet started the motor.

“And ns wouldn’t allow no man have her yet you due to the fact that I seen you would perform right. Good-by, Sugarbaby,” she said, clutching in ~ the sleeve that the white dress. Lucynell looked right at her and also didn’t it seems to be ~ to check out her there at all. Mr. Shiftlet eased the auto forward so the she had to relocate her hands.

The beforehand afternoon was clear and also open and surrounded by pale blue sky. Back the car would go just thirty mile an hour, Mr. Shiftlet imagined a terrific climb and dip and also swerve that went entirely to his head so the he forgot his morning bitterness. The had constantly wanted an vehicle but he had never been able to afford one before. The drove really fast because he want to make Mobile through nightfall.

Occasionally he stopped his think long enough to look at Lucynell in the seat next to him. She had consumed the having lunch as shortly as lock were the end of the yard and also now she was pulling the cherries turn off the cap one by one and also throwing them out the window. He came to be depressed despite the car. He had driven around a hundreds miles once he made decision that she must be hungry again and also at the next small town they came to, he stopped in front of an aluminum-painted eating place dubbed The hot Spot and also took she in and also ordered she a bowl of ham and grits. The ride had actually made her sleepy and as soon as she acquired up top top the stool, she rested she head on the counter and shut her eyes. Over there was no one in The hot Spot but Mr. Shiftlet and also the boy behind the counter, a pale youth v a greasy rag hung end his shoulder. Prior to he might dish increase the food, she was snoring gently.

“Give it to her once she wakes up,” Mr. Shiftlet said. “I’ll pay for it now.”

The boy bent over her and also stared in ~ the lengthy pink-gold hair and the half-shut resting eyes. Then he looked up and stared at Mr. Shiftlet. “She looks favor an point of view of Gawd,” that murmured.

“Hitch-hiker,” Mr. Shiftlet explained. “I can’t wait. I gained to make Tuscaloosa.”

The young bent end again and very carefully touch his finger come a strand the the gold hair and Mr. Shiftlet left.

He was an ext depressed than ever before as that drove on through himself. The late afternoon had actually grown hot and also sultry and also the country had planarization out. Deep in the sky a storm to be preparing an extremely slowly and also without thunder together if it intended to drain every autumn of waiting from the earth prior to it broke. There to be times as soon as Mr. Shiftlet desired not to it is in alone. That felt as well that a guy with a automobile had a duty to others and he preserved his eye the end for a hitch-hiker. Occasionally he saw a authorize that warned: “Drive carefully. The life friend save may be her own.”

The narrow roadway dropped turn off on either side into dry fields and also here and also there a shack or a filling terminal stood in a clearing. The sun began to set directly in prior of the automobile. It was a reddening sphere that with his windshield was slightly flat on the bottom and top. He saw a boy in overalls and a gray hat standing on the sheet of the road and also he slowed the auto down and stopped in front of him. The boy didn’t have his hand raised to ignorance the ride, the was only standing there, however he had a tiny cardboard suitcase and also his hat was set on his head in a means to suggest that he had left somewhere because that good. “Son,” Mr. Shiftlet said, “I check out you want a ride.”

The boy didn’t to speak he go or that didn’t yet he opened the door of the car and got in, and also Mr. Shiftlet began driving again. The child hosted the suitcase ~ above his lap and also folded his arms on top of it. He turned his head and also looked out the home window away from Mr. Shiftlet. Mr. Shiftlet feeling oppressed. “Son,” he claimed after a minute, “I acquired the best old mother in the world so i reckon you only obtained the second best.”

The boy provided him a fast dark glance and then turned his face earlier out the window.

“It’s nothing therefore sweet,” Mr. Shiftlet continued, “as a boy’s mother. She teach him his first prayers at her knee, she offer him love once no various other would, she told him what to be right and what wasn’t, and also she viewed that he excellent the appropriate thing. Son,” that said, “I never rued a work in mine life prefer the one i rued once I left the old mother of mine.”

The young shifted in his seat however he didn’t look at Mr. Shiftlet. He unfolded his arms and put one hand top top the door handle.

“My mommy was a angel of Gawd,” Mr. Shiftlet said in a really strained voice. “He took she from heaven and also giver come me and I left her.” His eye were instantly clouded over through a mist that tears. The car was proper moving.

The boy turned angrily in the seat. “You go to the devil!” that cried. “My old mrs is a flea bag and also yours is a stinking pole cat!” and with that he flung the door open and also jumped out with his suitcase right into the ditch.

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Mr. Shiftlet to be so shocked that for about a hundred feet that drove along slowly with the door stiff open. A cloud, the exact shade of the boy’s hat and shaped like a turnip, had descended over the sun, and also another, worse looking, crouched behind the car. Mr. Shiftlet felt that the rottenness the the civilization was about to engulf him. He increased his arm and let it fall again come his breast. “Oh Lord!” he prayed. “Break forth and wash the slime from this earth!”

The turnip ongoing slowly come descend. After ~ a few minutes there to be a guffawing peal of thunder from behind and fantastic raindrops, like tin-can tops, crashed over the rear of Mr. Shiftlet’s car. Really quickly he stepped on the gas and also with his stump sticking out the home window he raced the galloping shower into Mobile.

Analysis

Like numerous of O’Connor’s finest stories, “The Life girlfriend Save may Be your Own” is structured by a series of unresolved tensions between symbolism and realism, comedy and tragedy, spirit and also flesh, faith and also pain. Many students space tempted through the O’Connor’s religious symbolism into searching for explicitly Christian themes, just to uncover themselves confused by the brutality of O’Connor’s vision and voice. Her fiction solicits this symbolic readings with its extensive use of spiritual imagery, only to betray the belief readers placed in this images: Mr. Shiftlet is a carpenter who creates a cross v his body as he gazes at the sun, repairs Mrs. Crater’s car and drives it the end of the barn with “an expression of significant modesty on his confront as if he had actually just elevated the dead,” preaches come the 2 women top top the partnership of the body and also soul, abandons Lucynell – that looks “like an point of view of Gawd” together she sleeps – in ~ The hot Spot, and also finally summons an apocalyptic storm to “break forth and also wash the slime native this earth!”

Yet in the story’s final pages, O’Connor deflates her very own symbolism as Mr. Shiftlet’s plot contradict his prophetic voice. Favor Mr. Shiftlet, O’Connor’s fiction supplies the language and imagery of religious faith while additionally insisting ~ above the hard-eyed realism of the “good nation people” who populate she stories. For this reason, she stories can be simple to teach but hard to teach well. Castle offer things lesson because that students top top the prominence of intricacy in both fiction and also interpretation. Those who provide in to the temptation to read these stories merely through the spiritual symbolism uncover themselves in the same instance as Mrs. Crater, betrayed by devout language that hides the brutal cunning of Mr. Shiftlet’s “moral intelligence.”

Discussion Questions

How perform the personalities view every other? just how do these perceptions differ from the means that the rigid voice describes these characters?Mr. Shiftlet performs a series of “resurrections” in ~ the farm, patching the front and back steps, building a brand-new hog pen, restoring a fence, and teaching Lucynell to speak. Just how does she repetition of the one native he has actually taught her as she complies with him approximately the farm add to the story’s imagery? What is the relationship in between her personal symbol for him (“Burrddtt!!”) and the story’s symbolism?Does Mr. Shiftlet live approximately the Christian icons that surround him early in the story? What functions does that play because that the 2 women in the story?O’Connor to be a devout Catholic, who described her layout as “moments the Grace…prepared for by the soot of evil circumstances.” do you see such moment of grace in this story? Where?Is it sufficient to see Mr. Shiftlet as an anti-Christ, as some doubters have argued? In what sense could we contact his betrayal of these women a sort of salvation? indigenous what go he save them?How need to we view Mr. Shiftlet’s actions in the final paragraphs of the story? Why walk he provide the boy a sermon on the sweetness of a mummy love? What encourages his prayer because that a cleansing that the world? Does he lack any type of sense that culpability because that his very own actions?How would certainly you define the ton of this story? Look carefully at the descriptions of the personalities in the opened paragraphs, for example, or Mrs. Crater’s responses come Shiftlet’s sermons. What’s the connection of comedy and tragedy in the story? How could comedy contribute to the story’s “moral intelligence?”A number of critics have described O’Connor’s fiction together “grotesque” in its emphasis on wretched lives and also physical deformity. Others have said that she supplies wretchedness or physics imperfection together a authorize of grace or “a touching of the person with the grotesque luminosity that the divine” (Frederick Asals, Flannery O’Connor: The creative thinking of Extremity). Need to we view Shiftlet’s lacking arm and Lucynell’s problem as grotesque or sacramental? could they be both?How does O’Connor describe the natural civilization in this story? What go this imagery add to the story’s meaning?O’Connor’s original title because that this story was “The human being Is almost Rotten.” how does she decision to readjust the title transform your understanding of the story’s meaning? What go the road sign Shiftlet passes near the end suggest around the possibility of elegant in the story?