What kind of relationship did Mr. Shiflet and his mother have in "The Life You Save May Be Your Own"?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mr. Shiflet's mother was apparently a good woman who raised her son to "care if (he) did a thing one way or another".  Although he lives a life of obvious cynicism in the pursuit of material satisfaction, he mentions at least three times in the story the strong principles which his mother instilled in him.  Near the end of the narrative, feeling empty and worthless after he has married and abandoned a young disabled girl and taken off with her mother's car, Shiftlet remembers his old mother and laments that he treated her as poorly as he has treated Lucynell, crying,

"It's nothing so sweet...as a boy's mother.  She taught him his first prayers at her knee, she give him love when no other would, she told him what was right and what wasn't...I never rued a day in my life like the day I rued when I left that old mother of mine".

Mr. Shiftlet apparently had an enviable relationship with an exemplary mother who tried to teach him good moral values, but he threw it all away, repudiating her lessons and denying her love to seek illusive happiness in material living.

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The Life You Save May Be Your Own

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