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Williams1 -1Kiara Williams

Mrs. Kraus English 31 May 2011 Moral Flaws and Obsessions in Grotesque Characters Why does O’ Connor put so much emphasis on grotesque characters in her short story? In O’ Connor’s “The Life You May Be Your Own,” O’ Conner portrays Mrs. Lucynell and Shiftlet as archetypes for American society. Shiftlet, a wandering vagabond stumbles across a small desolate farm. There he meets Mrs. Lucynell Crater and her daughter Miss Lucynell Crater. Miss Lucynell Crater is a truly innocent girl who can not fend for herself. She becomes a key figure in the plot’s story and is almost a pawn in a game that the two characters misuse. Mrs. Crater offers Shiftlet a job in exchange for a place to stay. Shiftlet, thinking this is a good offer accepts but is secretly yearning for something more. The only thing that Shiflet is out for is the automobile sitting on the lawn of Mrs. Crater. Soon Mrs. Crater and Shiftlet engage in a game of give or take gambling on their emotions and the emotions of others. The use of grotesque characters in O’ Conner’s short story unveils the obsession, moral flaws and ambitions in American society. Shiftlet and Mrs. Lucynell Crater both have obsessions that fuel their motives for their actions in the story. Shiftlet has a growing obsession with Mrs. Crater’s car which he reveals when “ his eyes in the darkness were [focusing] on a part of the automobile bumper that [glitters] in the distance” (O’Connor 1016). Shiftlet has a tendency to wander from place to place because it is in his nature and it is all that he has ever known. A car signifies freedom and gives Shiftlet a means to get away and just be free. He craves that feeling and will do anything to achieve his goal of attaining his idea of true freedom..

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Mrs. Crater also has her own obsession as she “watches from a distance secretly pleased” of Shiftlet entertaining her daughters for “she is ravenous for a son-in-law” (1017). Mrs. Crater desperately wants to see her daughter married. She can relate to a lot of mothers who yearn to see their daughters marry. She however takes this to an extreme by pawning her daughter off to a man she has barely just met. Both Shiftlet and Mrs. Lucynell Crater are willing to hurt and take advantage of a defenseless girl just to feed their own obsessive personalities. O’ Connor exposes the moral flaws in her characters by delving into their true emotions. Mrs. Crater selling her daughter validates, “a good business deal but betrays the very meaning of the love a mother ought to have for her children, not to mention the love within marriage” (Cordelian 2). Mrs. Crater goes against the standard behavior of a mother in American society. If a mother really loves her daughter she would not offer her daughter up to achieve her own selfish desires. Shiftlet reveals his moral flaws when he takes advantage of Lucynell who is, “the younger simpler spirit almost utterly lacking in comprehension of her surroundings” (Cordelian 2). Shiftlet does not care that Lucynell is helpless and weak, all he cares about is getting his hands on that car. He is just as bad as Mrs. Crater using Lucynell as a way to get to the car and take off on his own. The two characters exemplify their moral flaws by their actions throughout the story. The characters of Shiflet and Mrs. Lucynell Crater portray that their ambitions keep their spirits alive during the story. Shiflet has a desire to be a free spirit and would “give a fortune to live where he could see him a sun that do that every morning” ( 1016). Shiflet has many ambitions and aspires to see many places and explore the world. He can relate to many American people today who long to travel the world and see many new

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places. Mrs. Lucynell Crater has an ambition as well, sneakily dropping hints about her daughter saying, “how she is the sweetest girl in the world and would give her up for nothing on earth” ( 1017). Mrs. Crater’s number one goal is to have her daughter marry so she can have a son-in-law. She slyly is selling her daughter off to Shiflet. Mrs. Lucynell Crater and Shiflet are epitomes of true ambition that O’ Conner illustrates throughout the story. Shiflet and Mrs. Crater are very relatable characters displaying their obsessions, ambitions, and moral flaws. Many people could relate to Shiftlet in the way that he wants to travel and see new and exotic places. One could say that he obsesses with this too much, even willing to take advantage of an innocent girl. Shiflet can also relate to many mothers out there. Many mothers want to see their daughters marry and have grandchildren. Just like Shiflet her obsession carries her away and she gets very caught up with her idea of a son-in-law. The characters may have good intentions but their own selfish desires absorb them and they end up making poor decisions. These decisions change their lives and the lives of the people around them.