The Life You Save May Be Your Own

by Flannery O’Connor

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What clues contradict Mr. Shiftlet's words and actions, suggesting his selfish intentions?

Expert Answers

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The first clue is his name. "Shiftlet" would mean "allowing one to shift" (change, not be reliable), and is close to "shiftless," which implies a kind of low greed.

The old woman's reaction is another clue; she sees him as a tramp.

O'Connor also provides clues in her description of Mr. Shiftlet; he has a "jutting steel‑trap jaw," and a steel trap would betray people, clamp down on things and not let go, holding them tight. Later, his gaze is described as "sharp," which is, among other things, not friendly.


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