This week for class I chose to read “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” by Flannery O’Connor. The short story is about a man named Mr. Shiftlet who is a disfigured con artist and tricks an unsuspecting mother into giving away some of her most prized possessions. Mr. Shiftlet tricked the mother into believing that he is an honest man looking for work as well as an innocent woman to love. The mother, Lucynell Crater, is deceived by Mr. Shiftlet which would be quite similar to one being deceived by a magician at a magic show.
In the story, Mr. Shiftlet comes to the small plantation to work and fix up the home. Though Lucynell is hesitant about allowing the stranger on her farm, but she allows him work as a carpenter and sleep in her old Ford. Mr. Shiftlet earns Lucynell’s trust by completing several overdue tasks which include fixing up the old car to running condition. Throughout the story, Mr. Shiftlet talks about finding an innocent woman. Lucynell is hesitant about offering her disabled daughter for marriage but believes Mr. Shiftlet is the right fit for her daughter. Mr. Shiftlet refuses to marry Lucynell’s daughter until he can “treat her right” by affording a hotel room and travel accommodations. Lucynell, falling into Mr. Shiftlet’s deceit, pays for the car to be fixed and painted as well as gives Mr. Shiftlet money for a romantic honeymoon.
Above is a picture of Mr. Shiftlet.
As soon as the couple is married Mr. Shiftlet promises to have Lucynell’s daughter returned within two days and they begin their honeymoon. With the car on loan the couple heads down to Mobile, Alabama for their honeymoon weekend. Shiftlet decides that it is time for his new bride to eat and stops a “The Hot Spot” for a quick dinner. While at the diner the daughter falls asleep on the counter while waiting on her food. Mr. Shiftlet sees this as his perfect opportunity to ditch his new bride and leaves her at the diner.
Above is an example of the before and after of the old Ford.
Mr. Shiftlet cunningly deceived Lucynell with his charm, quite similar to that of a magician at a magic show. In the beginning they show you a trick usually a card trick or the timeless pulling a quarter from behind your ear. For example the magician may tell you that they will “magically” pull a quarter from behind your ear when in reality it is usually in the magician’s sleeve or in the crook of their elbow. The audience is tricked thinking that the trick really was magic when in reality the “trick” was an illusion. The video below is an example of the quarter trick deceiving a young child. In the caption below the video the father says that he convinced the child that he should be washing behind his ears more; hence where the quarter came from.
Mr. Shiftlet could be considered a master magician in that he deceived a mother in giving up her most precious possession for his own benefit and tricked her into thinking he was a trusting character.