Searching for God in All the Wrong Places

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“’It’s nothing so sweet,’ Mr. Shiftlet continued, ‘as a boy’s mother.  She taught him his first prayers at her knee, she give him love when no other would, she told him what was right and what wasn’t, and she seen that he done the right thing.  Son,’ he said, ‘I never rued a day in my life like the one I rued when I left that old mother of mine’” (O’Connor 61).

He regrets the day he left his mother more than anything else?  Well why’d he steal Lucynell from her mother then?!  But seriously, I think part of why he begins to talk about this, is his guilt.  I think that he actually feels bad because of abandoning Lucynell.  He misses the good old days, when his mother would tell him what was right and what wasn’t.  This brings us to the correlation between this story, “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” and the other two stories by O’Connor we have read. 

In “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” we discover the theme of wishing to return to the past—the past, where there were good people still, who were polite and nice.  Mr. Shiftlet comments: “Nothing is like it used to be, lady…The world is almost rotten” (49).  Mr. Shiflet’s words sound almost exactly like something out of “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

Then there is the relationship between “The River” and “The Life You Save May Be Your Own.”  In the quote at the top of this entry, Mr.Shiftlet mourns his lack of having someone to tell him what to do.  We have the very opposite in “The River.”  Bevel/Harry will do whatever anyone tells him to do.  Mr.Shiflet wishes for this order.  He wants someone to make sure he does the right thing. 

I also think it is notable that right before Mr. Shiflet grieves his inability to do the right thing, he also comments that his mother “taught him his first prayers.”  I think in essence, what O’Connor feels these people lack is a relationship with God.  Mr.Shiflet needs someone to help him do the right thing, the Misfit misguidedly shoots people, and Harry searches for the magical world in the river—none of them have any faith to speak of, and none of them are happy.  Maybe O’Connor is trying to show us how lost one can become without God.          

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