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March 16, 2006

Lady and the Tramp

O'Connor, ''The Life You Save May Be Your Own'' -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

Have you ever seen a skit in a movie or T.V. show where the used car salesman and the buyer, both smoothies in their own right, haggle over a car and each is trying to get the upper hand in the negotiations and both can sense the desperation in the other?

Well, I got the feeling Lucynell was the car in this case, sort of.

Shiftless keys on that car right away. He spots it under the tree on page 49. On page 52 the old woman asks him flatly "Are you married or are you single?" So he wants the car and she wants her daughter to marry someone, maybe to place the responsibility for her care on someone else's shoulders, for example.

The negotiations begin, casually at first and in spurts. In the meantime, he fixes the car, the roof, teaches Lucynell to say "bird." During that time the old woman keeps bringing up the subject of matrimony, like a car salesman feeling out his customer. Shiftless too is a salesman, so he holds her at arm's length and dances around the old woman's questions until after he fixes the car.

The dealmaking heats up on page 56, when they drop the pretenses and talk straight to each other. Shiftless senses the woman's desperation, agrees to marry Lucynell and they haggle over the price of a weekend trip 57-58. One can almost sense the auctioneer's gavel come down.

So it's obvious both of them got something out of the deal. I think I saw on someone else's blog the suggestion that they used each other. That may not be too far from the truth. I think they (Shiftlet and the old woman) spotted an opportunity.

Part of me wants to say the old woman knew who she was dealing with: "she had never seen Mr. Shiftlet before, she could tell even from a distance, that he was a tramp and no one to be afraid of."

He was literally a one-armed bandit, wasn't he? I found it more than chance that after Shiftlet asks the Lord to "Break forth and wash the slime from this earth!" (62) that a storm breaks loose and starts pelting his car with rain.

Another clever line: "He took her from heaven and giver to me and I left her." (62) This was Shiftlet talking about his own mother to the hitchhiker, but it could also easily describe what Shiftlet did to Lucynell, who was referred to more than once as an angel.

Posted by MattHampton at March 16, 2006 01:02 AM

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