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March 13, 2006

The Life You Save May Be Your Own

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

I seriously do not understand this story. I do not understand the significance of the title. Who's life is saved? What happened to the daughter? I don't understand.

I think it is funny how the woman trusted this man and look what happened. However, this wouldnt have happened if the woman hadn't pushed for it. Why did she want her daughter to marry in the first place?? She should have just been happy with the man doing the work for her.

I also don't understand the scene with the hitchhiker?

Posted by OnileeSmith at March 13, 2006 7:29 PM


The life that was saved was his own. He was only concerned with himself. He used Lucynell to get the car. He did not want to marry Lucynell the daughter. The boy at the resturant probably married her because he was interested in her. If not no one really knows what happened. This is one reason I really don't like this book is that the stories are not complete. However, if you really think about them in an indirect manner you will see that O'Connor pretty much tells the ending without really telling the ending.

Posted by: LisaRandolph at March 15, 2006 10:57 AM

I guess you are right. He has the car which is all he really wanted. However, do you really think that he would have stollen it if he could have just lived there and drove it?

I definately haven't really liked any of these stories. You are right, they do have an ending. You must think of what happens on your own. I guess some people could like this because they can use their imagination. I, on the other hand, want to get the full story when i read it.

Posted by: OnileeSmith at March 15, 2006 5:24 PM

I imagine Lucynell Sr. saw an opportunity for her daughter to marry someone she thought was an honest, moral fellow, someone who would take care of her daughter after she passed away. I think she probably also wanted her daughter to have the opportunity to live a somewhat normal life and experience some of the things that other women her age got to experience.

Or, perhaps she was just looking for a way to get rid of her daughter so she wouldn't have to take care of her anymore; however, I doubt that. When Lucynell Sr. sees her daughter off, she starts to cry and reaches out to her as the car pulls away, showing that she did love her child.

As for the scene with the hitch-hiker, Mr. Shiftlet seems to be trying to convince the young boy to give up running away from home and return to his mother. The boy gets upset (more than likely, because Mr. Shiftlet started to make him feel guilty and foolish), and bursts out of the car in a childish fit.

The scene is curious, though; it seems odd that the careless Mr. Shiftlet would care enough to try to help guide the boy back to his mother.

Posted by: ChrisU at March 16, 2006 1:23 AM

With this story you must think outside of the box and use you imagination to figuare out what happens to the daughter at the end.

"The Life You Save May Be Own" is the title of a story that says just what it means and you're right the life that was saved was Mr. Shiftlet's because he just really and trueley did not want to marry the daughter and the old women just kept pushing it and he gave in.

Posted by: Amber Davis at March 16, 2006 12:24 PM

The title of the story reveals the theme, but you have to be a little older and, perhaps, from the south. Decades ago--in the southern states--a campaign for safe driving used highway advertisement billboards. It went something like this: "drive carefully; the life you save may be your own." It is an appeal to selfishness on the part of the individual. Although a person may not drive carefully to reduce the risk of killing someone else in a motor vehicle accident, they may be motivated by an admonition to save their OWN LIVES. In this case, the reader can see that Shiflet cares for no one but himself. There is no hope for him; however, the reader can learn a lesson through observing how he treats people. At the end of the story, Shiflet's running from the tornado(one apparently following him to a large city [Mobile])implies that God's judgment will be meted out upon those who ignore the bible command to "love thy neighbor as thyself."

Posted by: Charle at April 1, 2006 4:32 AM

this is the hardest story, I have read ever!!!
it seems to be easy to understand but the relationship of the title and the content is very hard to figure out. I am reading this story for school and it took me more that 6 hours to write and essay about it. If you are planning to read this book, it is a pretty interesting book, but not for people who dont like to think like me

Posted by: Matt Chavlek at May 9, 2006 12:09 AM

I think the old woman was worried that Lucynelle would end up a miserable widow like herself (they DID have the same name after all). Lucynelle was handicapped, that is why she was so eager for Mr. Shiftlet to marry her daughter. Obviously Shiftlet's primary interest was the car. He made it quite clear when he first arrived how much he was interested in the car. Unfortunately, the old woman pressured mr. shiftlet into marrying. But when he did, it didn't satisfy his intellectual and spiritual needs. It ate away at him until he finally ditched her at a diner. The diner claimed she looked like an "angel of gawd", thus suggesting that he ended up marrying her. On his drive, Mr. Shiftlet sees the signs "drive carefuly, the life you save may be your own" reminding him of his selfishness. In order to redeem himself, he recalls that people with cars are obligated to help hitch hikers. He picks up the first one he sees and starts lecturing him about his own problems. I'm not sure if the kid realizes he's a fake, or becomes guilty, either way he ditches.

It was a stupid story. I wish I had never been forced to read it.

Posted by: JR at September 24, 2006 5:53 PM

You're right, Mr. Chavlek, you're a much better writer than O'Connor.

Posted by: Motley at November 8, 2006 1:23 PM

i still dont get who is the damned character of this story. if Mr. Shiftlet is the saved one, who is the damned character?

would it be Lucynell Sr, since she's kind of the "good" character? am i making sense to anyone here? please help asap!!!

Posted by: Just Me at November 12, 2006 8:04 PM

I think most of you missed the mark on this one. Remember that this is "southern gothic" literature, which is essentially a critique on the ways of the south, specifically the lack of social progress since the end of the Civil War. When studied in this frame of mind, the characters take on an allegorical representation. Lucynell, Sr. is an allegory of the backwardness of certain aspects of the south, particularly the lack of educational values during the 1950s. Thus Lucynell, Jr. is the "victim" of this kind of system that doesn't value women or their potential for progress. Mr. Shiftlet allegorizes everything that is "wrong" with society, the selfishness, backwardness, political sluggishness, etc. that existed during the time.

Posted by: Sheryl Martinelli at November 13, 2006 10:39 AM

Im SO confused i have to find out more themes on this stoey i just dont know what to doo!!! ahh

Posted by: Maria at December 9, 2006 3:48 PM

the overall theme would be greed!! a greedy person will go out of their way just a bit to gain twice as much as they deserved!

Posted by: Princess at January 17, 2007 1:13 PM

I have to write a thesis statement over this story on whatever I want, as in, theme, character developement, setting ect...

Can anyone help? Someone said greed can be a theme, would ya'll agree?

Posted by: Micah at March 20, 2007 11:49 PM

I think the main themes can also be:
1) The search for a meaning in life
2) Salvation in a world controlled by money

and of course greed is a very important theme too, but it's a bit too vague for my taste

Posted by: Laura at January 19, 2008 7:19 AM

this was the worst book i have ever read. i am so confused. all of these comments help tho. i have to write an editorial on this story. can anyyyyone help? PLEASEEE!

Posted by: Dani at March 29, 2009 2:37 PM

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