6 February 2010
Moral corruption results from mankind’s need to satisfy their selfish desires. Ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates sought out to explain why we do what we consciously know is not the moral ideal. Aristotle defined moral weakness as a person who, "knowing that what he does is bad, does it as a result of passion." In Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” Mrs. Crater and Mr.Shiftlet’s actions reveal what truly causes a person to act immorally, which in their case are material possessions.
From the beginning, it is clear that Mrs.Crater is seeking to lure Mr.Shiftlet into her home so she can gain his services. At the beginning of the story she says of her daughter, “…she’s the sweetest girl in the world. She’s smart too. She can sweep the floor, cook, wash, and feed the chickens, and hoe. I wouldn’t give her up for a casket of jewels” (226). At first Shiftlet is seen as a handyman for free labor around her property, but later she realizes that he is someone she could easily pawn her daughter off to. She speaks highly of her daughter to Shiftlet as if she is priceless and off limits to him, yet that isn’t the case. She is really trying to make her more appealing to him.
After Shiftlet fixes the roof, patches the steps, builds a new hog pen, restores the fence, and teaches Lucynell to speak, Mrs. Crater has a sudden change of heart. All of the sudden, Mrs. Crater is all too willing to give her daughter up to this strange drifter in exchange for a few deeds. She sits on her porch and ultimately auctions Lucynell off to this stranger. She says in trying to convince Shiftlet, “you and her and me can drive into town and get married…you’d be getting a permanent house and a deep well and the most innocent girl in the world. You don’t need no money” (228). At this point it is obvious that Mrs. Crater is a fraud, willing to have her daughter marry this...
Cited: DiYanni, Robert. Literature:Reading Fiction,Poetry,and Drama. 6th ed. Boston:McGraw Hill.2007
O’Brian, Tim. “On the Importance of Mystery in Plot.” DiYanni 2229-30
O’Connor, Flannery. “The Life You Save May Be Your Own.” DiYanni 223-31
Welty, Eudora. “The Origin of a Story.” DiYanni 2213-14
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