Presentation on theme: "The Life You Save May Be Your Own By Flannery O’ Connor."— Presentation transcript:
The Life You Save May Be Your Own By Flannery O’ Connor
Setting The Life You Save May Be Your Own opens with some traditional staples of Southern America: the Craters’ porch, a ‘piercing sunset’, and specifically the Southern Gothic style as their house is set out in a ‘desolate spot’. Time seems to have stopped on the Crater’s plantation, everything (the car, the house, Lucynell Jnr’s development, etc) having broken down 15 years previous when Lucynell Snr’s husband died.
Tom T. Shiftlet One-armed hobo. “he had a look of composed dissatisfaction as if he understood life thoroughly.” His arrival at the Craters’ seems fated, “…as if the breeze were pushing him.” “always on the move, always” Immediately focuses on the Craters’ car and how he will acquire it. Taught Lucynell Jnr to say “bird”, her first word – a symbol of freedom. Inverse Christ-figure: “crooked cross”, “carpenter” – he travels around spreading a moral message, albeit a different one to Christ. Where Christ spreads messages of peace and love, Shiftlet spreads the message not to put trust in anyone. Morally ambiguous: motivated by greed; dumps/frees Lucynell Jnr; tries to stop hitchhiker from repeating his mistakes.
Lucynell Crater (senior) Assumes that Tom is harmless due to his disability: “she could tell, even from a distance, that he was a tramp and no-one to be afraid of” Wears a “man’s gray hat” - presumably her dead husband’s - in an attempt to appear authoritative & strong, in spite of her vulnerability. Naïve & foolish – she trusts & underestimates a stranger based on his appearance. In a rather discomforting way, she tries to make her daughter more attractive to Shiftlet by lying about her age (“fifteen, sixteen”). Uses her daughter as a bartering tool. Wants Tom as a permanent fixture on the plantation: “any man come after her’ll have to stay around the house”; “she was ravenous for a son-in-law.” Seeks permanence as seen in her daughter’s name. In her greed and foolishness, she loses everything.
Lucynell Crater (junior) The only truly innocent character in the story; a mute, handicapped girl. When Tom arrived she “jumped up and began to stamp and point and make excited speechless sounds”. Lucynell seems almost conspiratorial with Tom, as if she senses he will free her: “watched him with a cautious sly look as if he were a bird that had come up very close.” Once taught the word ‘bird’, she relishes screaming it, essentially crying out for freedom. Hers is the only story which may end happily: “She looks like an angel of Gawd.”
Symbol: Toolbox “He asked her what she thought she was made for but she didn't answer, she only sat rocking and wondered if a one ‑ armed man could put a new roof on her garden house.” Just as Shiftlet quickly focuses on the Craters’ automobile, Lucynell Snr thinks of what she has to gain in Shiftlet’s toolbox. The contents of a toolbox can be examined in a way that the contents of a heart cannot. Crater Snr defines Shiftlet by what he can do for her. Shiftlet asks “What is a man?” to which she replies, “What you carry in that tin box, Mr Shiftlet?”
Symbol: Human Heart “There's one of these doctors in Atlanta that's taken a knife and cut the human heart ‑ the human heart," he repeated, leaning forward, "out of a man's chest and held it in his hand," and he held his hand out, palm up, as if it were slightly weighted with the human heart, "and studied it like it was a day ‑ old chicken, and lady," he said, allowing a long significant pause in which his head slid forward and his clay ‑ coloured eyes brightened, "he don't know no more about it than you or me.“
Symbol: Car The car has not run in 15 years, ever since the death of Lucynell’s husband; it represents the possibility for movement or travel. Shiftlet’s comparison of sleeping in the car to the “monks of old” sleeping in their coffins suggests he sees this car as his final resting place. “terrible noises issued from the shed… With a volley of blasts it emerged from the shed, moving in a fierce and stately way. Mr. Shiftlet… had an expression of serious modesty on his face as if he had just raised the dead.” He felt too that a man with a car had a responsibility to others and he kept his eye out for a hitch ‑ hiker. Occasionally he saw a sign that warned: "Drive carefully. The life you save may be your own."
Symbol: Birds “eyes as blue as a peacock’s neck” (ref. to Lucynell Jnr). “The daughter… watched him with a cautious sly look as if he were a bird that had come up very close”. “cut out the human heart… held it in his hand… and studied it like it were a day old-chicken” (Shiftlet) (Shiftlet) “taught Lucynell, who… had never said a word in her life, to say the word “bird”.