Theme of "The Life You Save May"

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 656 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 656|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Flannery O'Connor's short story, "The Life You Save May," explores the theme of salvation and the consequences of one's actions. Through the character of Lucynell, O'Connor reveals the theme of innocence and the potential for redemption. Lucynell, a mentally disabled woman, serves as a catalyst for the main character's transformation and ultimately helps to reveal the theme of grace and redemption. This essay will analyze Lucynell's role in the story and how her innocence and vulnerability contribute to the theme of salvation. By examining the text and drawing on credible sources, this essay will demonstrate the significance of Lucynell's character in revealing the theme of redemption in "The Life You Save May."

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Lucynell's innocence and vulnerability are evident from the beginning of the story. She is introduced as a "poor, poor, dumb thing," and her mental disability is emphasized throughout the narrative. Lucynell's limited understanding of the world and her childlike nature make her an easy target for manipulation. When the main character, Mr. Shiftlet, comes across Lucynell and her mother stranded on the side of the road, he sees an opportunity to take advantage of their situation. However, as the story progresses, Lucynell's innocence begins to have a profound effect on Mr. Shiftlet.

Lucynell's innocence serves as a moral compass for Mr. Shiftlet, forcing him to confront his own selfishness and ultimately leading to his redemption. Despite her limited understanding, Lucynell displays a genuine kindness and trust in others. Mr. Shiftlet, on the other hand, is a morally ambiguous character who initially appears to be motivated solely by self-interest. However, Lucynell's innocence begins to chip away at Mr. Shiftlet's hardened exterior, revealing a glimmer of compassion within him.

In one key scene, Lucynell's innocence is contrasted with Mr. Shiftlet's selfishness. As they are driving together, Lucynell spots a "genuine heart-shaped cloud" in the sky and excitedly points it out to Mr. Shiftlet. Instead of acknowledging her innocent joy, Mr. Shiftlet dismisses her observation, stating, "I see too many clouds in my line of work." This moment highlights the stark contrast between Lucynell's childlike wonder and Mr. Shiftlet's jaded perspective. It also foreshadows the eventual transformation that Mr. Shiftlet will undergo as a result of Lucynell's influence.

Lucynell's vulnerability and innocence also serve to expose the flaws and hypocrisy of other characters in the story. As Mr. Shiftlet becomes more attached to Lucynell, he begins to see the true nature of her mother, who is willing to abandon her own daughter for personal gain. This revelation forces Mr. Shiftlet to question his own motives and the consequences of his actions. Through Lucynell's vulnerability, O'Connor exposes the darkness that resides within others and highlights the potential for redemption.

Furthermore, Lucynell's presence in the story aligns with O'Connor's larger theme of grace and redemption. O'Connor, a devout Catholic, often explored religious themes in her writing. In "The Life You Save May," Lucynell represents a figure of innocence and purity, reminiscent of biblical characters who serve as vessels of grace. Just as Jesus showed compassion and offered redemption to society's outcasts, Lucynell's presence in the story provides an opportunity for Mr. Shiftlet to experience a transformative moment of grace.

In conclusion, Lucynell's innocence and vulnerability play a crucial role in revealing the theme of redemption in "The Life You Save May." Through her presence, the main character, Mr. Shiftlet, is forced to confront his own selfishness and is ultimately offered a chance at redemption. Lucynell's childlike wonder and trust in others serve as a moral compass, exposing the flaws and hypocrisy of those around her. Additionally, Lucynell's character aligns with O'Connor's larger theme of grace and redemption, highlighting the potential for salvation in even the most unlikely individuals. "The Life You Save May" serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of innocence and the potential for redemption in the face of personal selfishness.

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Works Cited

O'Connor, Flannery. "The Life You Save May." A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. Harcourt Brace, 1955.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Theme of “The Life You Save May”. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 24, 2024, from
“Theme of “The Life You Save May”.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Theme of “The Life You Save May”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Jul. 2024].
Theme of “The Life You Save May” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 24]. Available from:
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