How would you characterize Mr. Shiftlet and Mrs. Crater and her daughter, Lucynell, in "The Life You Save May Be Your Own"?

Mr. Shiftlet is true to his name: shifty, amoral, and selfish, he tricks Mrs. Crater into giving him a car in exchange for marrying her daughter. Mrs. Crater is almost as rotten as Mr. Shiftlet and treats her daughter like a bartering tool. Lucynell is the only innocent character at the story. Both her mother and Mr. Shiftlet take advantage of her because she's mentally handicapped. In the end, Mr. Shiftlet abandons her at a restaurant called The Hot Spot.

Expert Answers

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Mr. Shiftlet: He can be characterized as apathetic, shrewd, amoral, and devious. Mr. Shiftlet is an astute judge of human nature. He knows how to manipulate someone's emotions for his own benefit. In the story, Mr. Shiftlet is successful at getting what he wants because he understands Mrs. Crater's motivations.

Mr. Shiftlet does not shrink from using every weapon at his disposal to manipulate the old woman; he flatters her and disarms her with his faux "boy-next-door" persona. When Mrs. Crater tells him that she can't pay him for any work he performs, he doesn't argue with her. Instead, he deflects her attention with the cryptic statement that "there's some men that some things mean more to them than money."

In fact, Mr. Shiftlet diverts Mrs. Crater's scrutiny with a list of questions that simultaneously irritates and fascinates her. As a shrewd judge of human nature, Mr. Shiftlet understands that the old woman is motivated by both self-preservation and maternal love. His perceptive...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 878 words.)

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