Literary Analysis Essay on The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Flannery O'Connor

Published: 2021-07-19
1026 words
4 pages
9 min to read
Vanderbilt University
Type of paper: 
Literature review
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

In the story of The Life You Save May Be Your Own, the author OConnor uses humor in her story so as to catch the attention of most of her readers. She develops the story through the use of color imagery and symbolism. OConnor in this story demonstrates the need for humankind for the mysterious grace of God, a gift that is only offered in settings that are ordinary. The major characters who are involved in the story are aware that they got something that another person craves to have and this increases the value of its offer. Shiftlet thinks his hearts desire is to have an automobile while Mrs. Crater thinks the thing that can fill the void that is existing in the family is having a son-in-law and Lucynell Crater who plays a great role to act as a symbol of innocence. The use of violence in the story is to help the characters maintain their moral deficiency, burn their virtues away which will make them humble and ready to accept redemption. The major themes of this story are religion, the search for the meaning of life, corruption, and the relationship between men and women in the world that we are living.

Search for the meaning of life is one of the themes that OConnor uses to develop his story to help explain more about the human nature. It is not clear the kind of person Shiftlet is when he goes towards the Craters farm. As he approaches the farm, he is in search of something. He misses out on the opportunity to get redeemed after he had married Lucynell and then later abandoning her. In the story this incidence was characterized by the guffawing peal of thunder and also later in the story we find Shiftlet he pleading to God in an anguished manner. Shiftlet gained nothing from the Craters lives, as he remains to be a lonely wanderer. In life, human beings are greedy when it comes to money. Most people believe that material possessions are the ones that bring meaning to peoples lives but that is not the truth. In the story, we find Shiftlets interest of money and Mrs. Craters automobile but even after having all that it doesnt bring meaning to his life. When Mrs. Crater offers Lucynell to Shiftlet, he replies to her by saying It takes money which suggests that Shiftlet may be changing and starting to get more interested in money.

The story The Life You Save May Be Your Own describes the nature of human beings which is full of moral corruption. We are living in a world that individuals are viewing money to be of greater value than people or having spiritual peace. Mrs. Crater has her intentions as to why she wants Shiftlet to be in her home which is greedy. One of the reasons Mrs. Crater want Shiftlet is so that he can act as a carpenter and also as a husband to her daughter. In such a situation Mrs. Crater lacks the value for her daughter and is ready to treat her as an object for trade when she says that she can sweep the floor, cook, wash, feed the chickens and hoe. I wouldnt give her up for a casket of jewels. At first, Shiftlet was not concerned with money, but he later starts to inquire about the automobile. Shiftlet ends up valuing the car he has always wanted more which results to him abandoning Lucynell. In the context of post-world war two America, the wealthy and the mobile Americans have been seen to be more concerned with money rather than individuals. In the 1950s the lifestyles of the Americans rapidly changed due to the automobile.

In the world of today, people have the inability to embrace the manifestations of Gods grace which occurs in their lives. In the story of The Life you Save May Be Your Own.' Mrs. Crater and Shiftlet both abandon Lucynell who is regarded to as the angel of Gawd.They both traded Lucynell who was a symbol of God to satisfy their thirst for material possessions. Lack of religious redemption results to the nomadic life that Shiftlet lives and Mrs. Crater not showing compassion to her daughter. People have lacked spiritual presence in their existence which leads to them missing out on the various opportunities that are brought about by one embracing the presence of God in their lives. When people become too materialistic, they tend to abandon the relationship that they have with God and other human beings. It makes people lose their ability to have an experience of the grace of God.

The story The Life You Save May Be Your Own shows the relationship that exists between men and women in the society that we are living. The men and women have a role to play in the society, but the men have neglected those roles, and hence the women have to perform them. Mrs. Crater have a variety of responsibilities which includes caring for the farm, paying bills and taking care of the daughter. Shiftlet, on the other hand, is just a wanderer who wants to break ties with women who tend to be a representation of roots and entanglement in a society that is civilized. It is evident when the only desire he has is to obtain the Craters automobile and later abandon Mrs. Crater and her daughter Lucynell. Shiftlet has neglected his roles as a man.

In conclusion, this story teaches people about how material possessions cannot bring meaning into their lives. It shows how people have neglected God and salvation for their love for money which has resulted in them not valuing the lives of other individuals. Gender roles in the society have been split. People need to be redeemed to get the benefits of redemption their lives. We are living in a world that is full of corruption, people lack the meaning of life and have turned against religion for worldly things.


O'Connor, F., & Recorded Books, Inc. (2015). The life you save may be your own: Short story. Place of publication not identified: HarperCollins Canada.


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