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The Drifter's Decision Essay

1377 words - 6 pages

Religion and nature are both thought to bring beauty to life. Religion gives some a purpose to live while for others, nature provides a natural escape from the problems of modern day life. However, author Flannery O’ Connor uses both of these elements in her short story, The Life You Save May Be Your Own, for a different purpose. Religion and nature provide the reader with insight into the main character, Tom Shiflet, a troubled drifter with one arm who comes into the lives of the Crater women and leaves them abruptly. Shiflet’s moral corruption is represented in the story’s weather change and the numerous Christian symbols that surround the various characters.
The introductory sunset and clear blue sky correspond to Shiflet’s opportunity to live a good and moral life. The story begins with Mr. Shiflet appearing before both Crater women as the sun is setting. The women see him approaching as they are sitting on their porch yet they are blinded by the sun light as Shiflet cannot help but notice the beauty. Shiflet “came on, at an amble, up her road, his face turned toward the sun which appeared to be balancing itself on the peak of a small mountain” (Connor 437). After this, Shiflet remarks to Mrs. Crater, “I’d give a fortune to live where I could see me a sun do that every evening” (438). Shiflet arrives at the Crater household as a drifter, someone who has left his old life behind and is searching for a new beginning. Likewise the sunset is the closing of the day’s chapter, which brings about a sense of renewal and anticipation for tomorrow. The glorious image of the sunset between the mountains emphasizes the potential for Tom Shiflet to find peace in this new place. The magnificence of the sunset at the beginning of the story corresponds to the beautiful sky present on the day of Tom Shiflet’s wedding to Lucynell. As Lucynell and Tom head out for their honeymoon, the afternoon atmosphere is described as “clear and open and surrounded by pale blue sky” (Connor 443). It was a perfect day to celebrate the sacrament of marriage. For Tom and his bride Lucynell there was an endless expanse of new opportunities and beginnings to explore. They had a car for transportation, money, and the blessing of Mrs. Crater. Nothing was standing in their way just as there were no clouds obstructing the beautiful blue sky. Tom Shiflet had everything he needed to start a new life. He had the opportunity and means to give up his nomadic way of living and settle down with his new wife as society dictates a decent, upright man should do. The clear weather symbolizes the chance Tom has to lead a good and moral life. However, Tom Shiflet was not done wandering the countryside just yet.
The maliciousness of Tom Shiflet is represented by the thunderstorm and sunset at the end of the story. After Tom Shiflet leaves his bride at a restaurant and steals Mrs. Crater’s automobile, the weather drastically changes. As Tom speeds away, “Deep in the sky a storm was preparing...

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