Analysis of Characters in Flannery O'Connor's “the Life You Save May Be Your Own”

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Laura Furdge
Dr. McDaniels
ENG 495
February 5, 2013

Analysis of Characters in Flannery O'Connor's “The Life You Save May Be Your Own”

“The Life You Save May Be Your Own” is a short story written by the American author Flannery O'Connor. It is one of ten stories in her short story collection called A Good Man Is Hard to Find. In this Southern Gothic tale, we are introduced to a mother and her daughter as they sit on a porch in an impoverished country town. A man, Mr. Shiftlet, crosses their path and after a bit of conversation is offered a place to sleep and food to eat in exchange for fixing things around the house. He eventually is offered the daughter's hand in marriage, and accepts with the reward of getting a car. The two marry and the mother provides money for them to go on a weekend honeymoon. But, in an unexpected turn of events, at least 100 miles away from her home, Mr. Shiftlet leaves the girl sleeping and stranded at the counter of a breakfast restaurant. Feeling very guilty, he searches for a hitchhiker to pick up in an effort to right his wrong and finds a little boy that had just run away from home. Mr Shiftlet convinces the child to go back home to his mother and the story ends with him driving to Mobile. Flannery O'Connor does more than tell a humorous Gothic story with this piece of work; she uses the lives of Lucynell, Lucynell Jr, and Mr Shiftlet to illustrate the human condition and how we often put our morals to the side for our own selfish gain. Lucynell Crater is the retarded daughter of Mrs. Crater. She has a childlike mind and is unable to speak. She is a simple spirit and lacks comprehension of her surroundings. “She ha[s] long pink-gold hair and eyes as blue as a peacock's neck”(O'Connor). She was almost thirty but could pass for 15 or 16 because of her innocence. She is almost entirely silent the whole story, yet she plays a major role in the events that take place throughout the story. Lucynell was a key player in this...
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