Mr. Shiftlet makes me hot (and I don't mean aroused)!

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"Oh Lord!" he prayed. "Break forth and wash the slime from this earth!" (O'Connor "The Life You Save Might Be Your Own" 62).

   This line made me so mad!  Mr. Shiftlet talks so much about how he has "'a moral intelligence'" (53) and he feels "that a man with a car had a responsibility to others and he kept his eye out for a hitch-hiker."  What the heck!?!  He just abandoned his wife!  It is amazing how people could see only what they want to see.  People are just so selfish sometimes.

   I'd like to take this opportunity to humble myself and admit the fact that I don't quite understand the meaning of the title.  My interpretation of this title would be the mother who pretends to care so much for her deaf daughter actually sees her as a burden.  She is so willing to get rid of her daughter that she pays a drifter to take her off of her hands.  She saves her own life because now she is free to do what she wants without having to worry about that child who held her back for so long.  She bequeathed her responsibility to someone else so she doesn't have to worry about her anymore.  When Shiftlet drove away from The Hot Soup, he severs his ties with that horrible burden that was his wife and "saves his own life."  Anyone else have thoughts about what the title means?


Tiffany Gilbert said:

Guilty....I was confused by the title as well. I found meaning in almost everything else except probably the most signifcant aspect. I admit, I ignored it because I wasn't sure of what it meant nor had sufficient evidence to support it. I see how you are angry about the Mr. Shiftlet leaving Lucynell to perhaps, "save his own life." That is really greedy. It could mean something so much deeper than that, which I have obviously missed, however, the title could acknowledge greed...(7 deadly sins!) So you're put in the predicament of caring for your (now) wife who is like a child. She is not one you can love in respect of a wife. So by leaving her behind....perhaps Mr. Shiftlet thought he was getting her away from her mother as well as giving her a fresh start, in turn saving his own life?

Ohhh, I am thinking too far out now....I'm going to stop :)

The phrase was part of a campaign to get people to use seatbelts, and most of the original audience probably would have recognized it. But that historical doesn't prevent the phrase from taking on additional meanings.

Kaitlin Monier said:

I think at the end Shiftlet realizes that he is a terrible person, even though he convinced himself and tried to convince everyone else that he was morally correct. I think when he asks for the slime to be washed off the earth, he is referring to himself even if he isn't completely conscious of it. The rain at the end washes him, and maybe he can start anew after this experience.

Stephanie Wytovich said:

I would just like to say that I really enjoyed hearing everyone's interpretations on the meaning of the title of the story. I sort of thought the same as Angela, but everyone else's perspective is really neat. I have to admit that I like thinking out of the box.

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