How does the life you save may be your own explore social issues and reveal the cultrual character of the american south

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Flannery O'Connor's fiction, she depicts the South in Gothic terms: a place that it is illegitimate, doomed to moral decay, that is "Christ-haunted," where her characters are physically and spiritually homeless.

Critics W. J. Cash and Lillian Smith have this to say about the South, which pertains to O'Connor's short story here:

The South continues to constitute a profound problem: how to resolve its contradictions? It is a distinct and wonderful place, the source of jazz and the Southern novel; it is also the site of slavery, lynchings and hyper-conservative delusions of Christianity. In short, it is a bipolar culture suffering a grave existential crisis, and her residents posses the same fragmentation of identity, the same duality of existence, which makes the South such a difficult place to consider without anxiety.

Like Lucynell, O'Connor suffered from a debilitating disease: lupus.  She had tried to leave the South: she wrote her first novel in New York.  But after she developed the chronic condition, she had to move back home with her mother for the rest of her life.  She was trapped physically and culturally.

A social issue that the story explores is feminism: women are victims of males and a male-dominated culture.  Lucynell is a kind of property for Shiflet, like the car he tries to fix up.

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The Life You Save May Be Your Own

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