The Journey Of Tom Shiflet Essay

1236 words - 5 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. While the weather represents the changing circumstances of the main character, Tom Shiflet, the numerous Christian symbols surrounding the characters serve to emphasize his moral corruption.
The sunset and clear blue sky represent the opportunity for a new life for the character of Tom Shiflet. 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 light as Shiflet cannot help but notice its 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 that “I’d give a fortune to live where I could see me a sun do that every evening” (438). The magnificence of the sunset 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 sky 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. Yet, these descriptions provide not only detail to the reader, they provide a window into the character of Tom Shiflet. Shiflet arrives at the Crater household as a drifter, someone who has left behind his old life and is searching for a new beginning. Likewise the sunset is the closing of today’s chapter, which brings about a sense of anticipation for tomorrow. This sentiment is also expressed in the open blue sky on the day of the wedding. 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. The lovely weather descriptions resemble the cheerfulness and sense of new beginning that is implied through the events of the scene.
The guilt that Tom Shiflet feels for abandoning Lucynell corresponds to the thunderstorm he flees under. After Tom Shiflet leaves his bride at a restaurant, the weather drastically changes. As Tom speeds away, “Deep in the sky a storm was preparing very slowly and without thunder as if it meant to drain every drop of air from the earth before it broke” (Connor 443). As Shiflet speeds away from Lucynell, the description sunset is reminiscent of their first...

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