The decline of moral and religious order is evident in the situation of the characters. Mr Shiftlet is physically disabled while the girl, Lucynell is mentally retarded; yet there seems to be no social support available to them. They both live in poverty, Mr Shiftlet merely drifts around while Lucynell lives with her old mother in squalid conditions.
The characters of Mr Shiftlet and Lucynell's old mother are also morally dubious, as reflected in their treatment of Lucynell. The mother lets Mr Shiftlet, a perfect stranger, take her away and marry her in return for Mr Shiftlet doing odd-jobs around the house, while Mr Shiftlet only wants the car which the old woman offers him to drive away in; far from marrying Lucynell, he abandons her at a gas station.