Duality In "The Life You Save May Be Your Own."

1374 words - 6 pages

Flannery O’ Connor was educated at the Georgia State Women’s College, and she also attended Iowa State. O’Connor wrote her first piece of literature when she was twenty-seven years old, and she expresses her personal convictions and views in her writings. O’Connor often has characters in her literature that are disabled in some way, and most of the time, she portrays sympathy for these characters. O’Connor died from an uncommon disease called lupus, and she lived with this disease most of her life (“Flannery” 1050). “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” is a story about a traveler, Mr. Shiftlet, who marries a mentally challenged girl to get an automobile and money from the mother of the girl. In the end, Mr. Shiftlet ends up abandoning the girl. In “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” O’Connor uses duality to show that people and things can have two sides.
In the story, O’Connor parallels Mr. Shiftlet to Christ and to an anti-Christ. O’Connor reveals, through the character of Mr. Shiftlet, that people can have two different sides to them. Mr. Shiftlet’s past occupations correspond to what Jesus Christ did while he was on earth. Mr. Shiftlet “is a carpenter and has been in the past a gospel singer…and a visitor to every foreign land” (Griffith 140). Just as Mr. Shiftlet, Jesus was a carpenter, and he continually traveled to many different places while preaching the gospel. Although Christ was not a gospel singer, it directly relates to Jesus because gospel songs are to and for Him. O’Connor is showing that each profession of Mr. Shiftlet is related to the professions of Jesus in some way. Another way in which Jesus and Mr. Shiftlet parallel is by the giving of blood. Jesus was crushed, bruised, and beaten, and his blood was poured out for His children. Just as Christ poured out His blood for His children to be able to know Him, Mr. Shiftlet provides some of his own blood in order to marry Lucynell. The government makes it essential that a person have a ‘pre-marital blood test’ to get married. Mr. Shiftlet and Christ both had to pay a price, and in order to do that, they had to give up some of their own blood (Griffith 141). O’Connor also illustrates the parallel to Mr. Shiftlet and Christ through the resurrection of something that is dead. Jesus was raised form the dead on the third day after His crucifixion, and Mr. Shiftlet repairs a broken, inoperative car to become an operable automobile that is as good as new.” The restoration of the automobile… with the aura of a miracle about it: ‘He had an expression of serious modesty on his face as if he had just raised the dead (Griffith 141).’” This relates to Jesus’ life because He often performed supernatural miracles. O’Connor presents specific ways in the story in which Mr. Shiftlet corresponds to Christ (Ragen 138).
O’Connor shows the second side of Mr. Shiftlet’s character by paralleling him to an anti-Christ, and a completely new aspect of Mr. Shiftlet is shown. Mr. Shiftlet has an evil root...

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