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"The Life You Save May Be Your Own" by Flannery O'Connor

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Derrick McMillian

on 31 October 2015

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Transcript of "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" by Flannery O'Connor

"The Life You Save May Be Your Own" (O'Connor)
When a one-armed man offers his services repair an older woman's property with an unspoken motive, the property owner takes the opportunity to arrange her disabled daughter's wedding to the man. However, when the visitor is told this information, he experiences a moral dilemma between satisfying his selfish desires and respecting an older woman's request.
Flannery O'Connor's short story, "The Life You Save May Be Your Own", is told from a non-omniscient 3rd person point of view. This serves the purpose to let the audience speculate on the character's motives rather than just describing them; This might have also muddled the thematic focus of the story.
The characters in the short story are introduced as following: Tom T. Shiftlet, Lucynell Crater (Sr.), and Lucynell Crater. Tom T. Shiftlet (Shifty) is a one-armed wanderer who happens to see an automobile that he likes on an older woman's property; He later earns the respect of the older woman through his hard work and respect for women. Ironically, Shifty betrays both of them by abandoning Miss. Crater. Lucynell Crater (Sr.) is a widowed older woman who had cared for her disabled daughter for the entirety of her life. After determining that Shifty was an honest man, Mrs. Crater marries her daughter off wanting to see the best for her as a mother. Lucynell Crater (youth) is the naive daughter of the older woman, Mrs. Crater, who has been sheltered from the ill-natured world for her entire life.
Characters and Characterization
"The Life You Save May Be Your own"
Short Story Analysis by Derrick McMillian
"The Life You Save May Be Your Own" is a short story by Flannery O'Connor that was published on May 12, 1955
In "The Life You Save May Be Your Own", Flannery O'Connor has a narrative tone that shifts to one of a dark, contemplative nature after Tom T. Shiftlet's abandonment of Lucynell Crater at the small town diner.
Flannery O'Connor's tone and use of words in "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" creates a mood of introspection for the reader. The quick turn of events and the conclusion reveal O'Connor's purpose of writing the short story and engender the feeling of deep-thought within the reader.
Literary Devices
In "The Life You Save May Be Your Own", Flannery O'Connor cleverly uses the juxtaposition of her characters and metonymy to express the theme of her short story.
There are two themes that Flannery O'Connor directly touches on in "The Life You Save May Be Your Own": the selfish nature of man and the detrimental results that might come with being completely innocent.
Thesis Statement
“The Life You Save May Be Your Own”, a short story by Flannery O’Connor employs the use of symbolism, allusion, and situational irony to convey the selfish nature of man in society. In this short story, O’Connor uses a clever combination of ironic character description and development to demonstrate how even the apparently generous may have inherently selfish motives.
Making literary connections!
Full transcript