57 pages 1 hour read

Flannery O'Connor

The Life You Save May Be Your Own

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1953

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.


“The Life You Save May Be Your Own”

  • Genre: Fiction; realistic; Southern Gothic
  • Originally Published: 1953
  • Reading Level/Interest: College/adult; grades 9-12
  • Structure/Length: Approx. 25 pages
  • Protagonist and Central Conflict: When a one-handed drifter named Mr. Shiftlet arrives on the farm of Lucynell Crater and her daughter, also named Lucynell, Mrs. Crater talks up her daughter—who is deaf—to Mr. Shiftlet, noting that she is smart and can work. She eventually convinces Mr. Shiftlet to marry Lucynell and gives him money for their honeymoon, but Mr. Shiftlet abandons Lucynell at a diner on his way to Mobile.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Physical and mental disabilities are included as grotesque elements of the Southern Gothic genre.

Flannery O’Connor, Author

  • Bio: 1925-1964; born in Savannah, Georgia; raised Catholic and attended parochial schools as a youth; graduated on an accelerated path from Georgia State College for Women and studied fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop; published two novels and two short story collections praised for their withering social commentary, particularly on religious hypocrisy; died at 39 years old of lupus, the same autoimmune disease that had killed her father; posthumous recipient of the 1972 National Book Award for The Complete Stories; in recent years, critics have called out the racist attitudes displayed in her letters
  • Other Works: Wise Blood (1952); A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955); The Violent Bear It Away (1960); Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965); The Complete Stories (1971)