The Life You Save May Be Your Own

by Flannery O’Connor

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What influenced the author to write "The Life You Save May Be Your Own"?

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Flannery O' Connor was influenced by her life growing up in Georgia. When she was a child she kept a chicken  as a pet. The pet could walk forward or backward which was a very strange phenomenon for such an animal. When people began to hear about this "odd" charcteristic of the chicken, people began to seek out the family to take pictures, thinking it may bring them fortune and fame.  This made a lasting impression on her and she developed an insatiable appetite for the grotesque, which is a characteristic inherent to many "Southern Gothic" writers.  "Southern writers are fond of 'writing about freaks,' " she remarked, "because we are still able to recognize one."  Flannery O' Connor's fictional world if full of "misfits, fanatics and con artists."  She believed the only way a person could see the need for spiritual healing was to present things in a distorted way.  As we can see in the story she definitely gets her message across.

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O’Connor wrote her first novel, Wise Blood, while living at a writer’s colony in upstate New York, but at this lifestyle came to an abrupt end when, at age twenty-five, O’Connor herself suffered an attack of lupus. She moved back to Georgia to live with her mother on a dairy farm and continued to write, publishing Wise Blood in 1952, the story collection A Good Man Is Hard to Find in 1955, and a second novel, The Violent Bear It Away, in 1960. Her most famous stories, ‘‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’’ (1953) and ‘‘The Life You Save May Be Your Own,’’ were both written during this period. She received numerous awards, grants, and citations for her work.
Despite persistent health complications, O’Connor continued to write fiction and nonfiction, displaying a pointed wit and proclivity for self-mockery. She spent her final years being cared for by her mother and hired helpers, who likely resembled many of the impoverished characters that appear regularly in her fiction. She finally yielded to lupus in August 1964 at age 39. Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Short Stories was published in 1971 and won the National Book Award.

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