"The Life You Save May Be Your Own", is a dramatic short story written by Flannery O'Connor, which captures the element of trick plotting at the slightest bit. The reader is fooled toward the end of the story, when one of the three main characters, Tom T. Shiftlet, completely leaves his wife, Lucynell Crater, and drives off to a city called Tuscaloosa. He earned the trust of Crater's mother, also going by the name Lucynell Crater, for two things: to gather as much money from them as possible, and to drive off with something he never could afford to have: an automobile. It is an example of clear deception.
In addition, the way O' Connor drops the subtle hints of deception throughout the story, is for the reader to find out toward the end, that Shiftlet is up to no good. However, the theme O' Connor makes is powerful. No matter how good a person thinks they are, sometimes, it is them who need the most help. The story begins with the mother and her daughter (both Lucynell Craters) minding their own business and living their daily lives. Shiftlet is the outside stranger that approaches them. Almost immediately he begins asking questions about their possessions, creating an impression to the reader as if that was all he was interested in.
Shiftlet also used a good strategy by conveying a superficial form of innocence, bringing up many of his philosophical beliefs. Because Crater, the mother, was philosophical herself in some ways, he was able to appeal to her. During their first encounter, as Shiftlet was looking around the house and offering to fix anything that was not functioning properly, "mother Crater" quickly replied how she had no money to offer, just hospitality and care. This was an effort by mother Crater to see what type of man Shiftlet really was. Just on how Shiftlet appeared uninterested in the topic of money to mother Crater at first, this showed her that he might have been a sincere man and worth trusting. Since Shiftlet, to some extent, earned mother Crater's trust, he was allowed to stay within the vicinity and fix anything he could.
He wound up repairing important resources like the fences, a hog pen, the steps to the house, and so on. To even persuade mother Crater that he was a good man, Shiftlet taught a deaf "daughter Crater" how to say the word, "bird". This act, really won the affection of mother Crater. To invest such time into teaching a deaf girl to say a word, displays some integrity on the part of Shiftlet. As he and mother Crater were talking, he began the "money-taking" by suggesting a new fan belt and new bolts to make the car run efficiently. Even though this is true, what the audience does not yet realize is that this is all for him.
As he took the money from mother Crater and fixed her car, he earned her fondness so much that the question of Shiftlet marrying daughter Crater came up! Shiftlet agreed with mother Crater, believing that her daughter would make a good wife. But this was a scheme falling perfectly into Shiftlet's hands as he was thinking about it. The only question he had with mother Crater is how would he pay to satisfy daughter Crater. With no money, he could not take her to a hotel, and buy her both lunch and dinner like he has always envisioned growing up. He also used a tactic of his and let mother Crater know that is was a strong and traditional belief in the way he was brought up.
But even the elder Lucynell Crater retaliated with how her daughter would not even care about those things. She has been disabled, and living with her in that home for her entire life. How would she tell the difference between anything good or bad? Nevertheless, he was hoping to convince her in giving him some money to please him a little.
It worked, but only to a grand total of fifteen dollars. As the selfish Shiftlet expressed how that was not enough, she only offered two dollars and fifty cents more. To the reader, it was even more significant to read how mother Crater was telling Shiftlet that is all you are going to "milk" out of me. This really hit him hard, as he was able to figure out that she was beginning to treat him for what he really is: a stranger.
The next day, Shiftlet married the daughter, Lucynell Crater, by court. Shortly after, he expressed an immature attitude by complaining what he just did was not the proper and customary way to get married. An audience reading can detect that any other truthful person in Shiftlet's position, would have been entirely reasonable. Mother Crater does not have an immense amount of money. Anyway, the money she does have is to be used after the marriage. Shiftlet needs it to have either lunch or dinner at the hotel, the way he wanted to.
Once they got home after the marriage, they dropped off mother Crater to pick up their lunch. As mother Crater was leaning over the window crying on how she will be parted with her daughter for the first time, he simply started the motor and began to drive off slowly. An act like that signifies no emotion and should start beginning to let the audience know, that there is something wrong with this man. Once they finished eating lunch, they began to drive off.
While Shiftlet drove the car, he should have been happy that he practically received a free car. There was probably no chance he was going to go back to mother Crater's house. But he was depressed, because he was thinking his wife might be hungry later on. Being dejected over that reason is solid evidence that he is a man that does not care at all for both Crater women. They stopped at "The Hot Spot" diner. Because it was such a long day, the minute his wife sat down, she became tired and fell asleep for a little while.
Shiftlet sought to take advantage of this moment by paying for a meal, and then leaving, abandoning his wife. This is the most coward act committed by Shiftlet. His actions should generate an idea to the audience that he was indeed a villain all along. Toward the end of the story, he picks up a child on the way to his destination, Tuscaloosa. Since he was a child, he thought he could communicate with him by what child has: a mother.
Shiftlet described his mother as the most beautiful person he ever knew. The child was not very delighted with this. The adolescent must have come from a troubled past, because as Shiftlet continued on his mother, the kid yelled at him and jumped out of the car. The author then adds an element of contradiction when Shiftlet, shocked at what the boy did, wishes all the "slime-balls" gets wiped off the earth. Why would he say that after what he just did to two innocent people?
In conclusion, the Flannery O' Connor chooses the title, "The Life You Save May Be Your Own", because Tom Shiftlet thinks he is a flawless person. He was introduced as a war veteran and a good charmer. With the persona that he has, as he tries to help and be nice to as many people as he can, what he needs to realize is how he swindled two innocent people. These were two people that trusted him. Shiftlet walked into their lives, which has all the reason to believe his intents: stealing from people. This story has ironic elements that Connor excels in.
As the central theme, all O' Connor suggests that a man who thinks he knows it all, might be the one that needs the most help.