Even though both Mrs. Crater and Mr. Shiftlet profess the importance of spirituality in their lives, they make decisions based on material needs and wants. Mrs. Crater needs a caretaker for her property and has nothing to offer other than her daughter Lucynell. When Mr. Shiftlet arrives, the property is run down and the Ford automobile in the shed doesn't run. Mrs. Crater suggests that there hasn't been a man around for fifteen years and, once she knows that Mr. Shiftlet, despite having only one arm, is capable of fixing anything, she is eager to get him to marry her daughter. At one point O'Connor writes that Mrs. Crater was "ravenous for a son-in-law."
Lucynell is deaf and dumb but is able to do simple chores around the house. She is indispensable to her mother, not only because of the work she can do, but almost certainly because they have been together for so long. Mrs. Crater claims the girl is only about fifteen but she was really closer to thirty. Because she is mentally challenged, the girl is unable to control her fate and becomes a pawn in the absurd negotiation which goes on between Mrs. Crater and Mr. Shiftlet. Mrs. Crater is selfish in wanting to use her daughter simply to get a handyman. She lures Mr. Shiftlet into marrying Lucynell with the promise of money and the use of the car. Likewise, Mr. Shiftlet uses the girl in his quest to rob Mrs. Crater of her money and the car. As soon as he leaves the property he dumps Lucynell at a roadside café.