Is there irony in, "The Life You Save May Be Your Own"?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 According to the dictionary, "irony is defined as incongruity between a situation developed in a drama and the accompanying words or actions that is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the story".

The character of Mr. Shiftlet, the drifter who comes upon Mrs. Crater and Lucynell, is wandering around looking for a place to find meaning in his life.  He is alone, empty, devoid of any relationships.  When he meets the old woman and her daughter, he gets very close to being a part of something, a family.

Mr. Shiftlet seems to be finding a place to fit in, with Mrs. Crater and her daughter, he also gives the old woman and her daughter the opportunity to have more meaning in their lives, all three are made better because of their relationship.  They are "saved" from a life of loneliness and emptiness.  However, ironically, Mr. Shiftlet abandons Lucynell when she passes out at the diner.  The other people in the diner, and the reader, recognize Lucynell as Mr. Shiftlet's salvation, identifying her as an angel.  However, he does not see it.  He runs away from her and leaves his saved life behind. 

Mr. Shiftlet starts at the beginning again when he gets into the  car and picks up the hitchhiker, he is once again trying to find meaning in life.  Ironically, he abandoned just that when he walked away from his wife and his life with Mrs. Crater.   


dedeborczak | Student

i dont understand the story the "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" by Flennery O'connor. This story is realy interesting and all but i dont understand the irony and the forshadowing in the story. And especialy the Theme. All i know is that this guy comes up to a farm with an old lady and her dauther and asks the old ladys if he could merry her dauther. He realy doesn't care about her he just wants to get the car thats sitting in the drive way that hasn't been wriden in like for ages. His more interested in the car than the disabled dauther. I realy didnt like how he played the old woman and her dauther. He is realy a guy that is trying to figure how to live his life agian. He never learned and now he has to start all over.

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The Life You Save May Be Your Own

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