Flannery O'Connor's Stories

Explain how The Life You Save May Be Your Own is Southern Gothic.

Please include examples from the text to illustrate your points on how the story exhibits elements of Southern Gothic.

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Southern gothic fiction is a subgenre of gothic fiction, focusing on the American South. It is similar to gothic fiction. Supernatural or unusual events usually guide the plot. Unlike Gothic fiction, however, instead of there being a monster, the negative or unique characteristics of a monster are portrayed through a southern character, such as a disabled man. Also like gothic fiction, there is most always some notable structure whose decay is central to the story's plot. The character is known as a grotesque, a character set apart from the rest of the world in a negative way who induces both empathy and disgust in his appearance and actions. The character is characterized by his freakishness, and has a negative way of viewing the world. Imprisonment and violence are two major characteristics as well.

"The life you save may be your own" takes place on an old broken down plantation in the south. It is  quiet and droopy, with nothing particular happening. That is, until a disabled man with one arm named Tom Shiftlet shows up. He is a man of " a moral intelligence", as he states. At first,  you might feel sorry or sympathetic for him, due to the fact that he only has one arm. This disability is only one way in which he is set apart from the rest. He has a negative way of viewing the world. This is shown by his response to the question of being single, "Lady... where would you find an innocent woman today. I wouldn't have any of this trash I could just pick up."( O, Conner) He also believes that most people are not really interested in helping the world, as he is. He helps the Grandma and the disabled girl, Lucynell, by fixing their property and making their automobile run again, being handy even though he is missing an arm. Some might say that his morals take a nasty turn, though, after he marries Lucynell and ditches at the side on the road like a hitchhiker. He later picks up a hitchhiker, though, and expresses, indirectly, his regret in this choice. This person makes the story work as southern gothic, because he shows a younger version of Shiftlet that will repeat the cycle.