"Tom T. Shiftlet: the Untraditional Christ Figure"
As noted in class, Flannery O'Connor's Catholic faith dominates her writing style. Clearly demonstrated in "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," O'Connor reveals interesting parallels between Tom Shiftlet as an untraditional Christ figure in this notable short story.
The symbolism illustrated through Shiftlet becomes evident upon his entrance in the story. The description of Tom T. Shiftlet alludes superficially to Jesus. Before saying anything to Mrs. Crater, he swings "both his whole and his short arm up slowly so that they indicated an expanse of sky and his figure formed a crooked cross" (48). Shiftlet makes a visual reference to Christ by extending his arms. His modified representation of Christ's crucifixion indicates that he does not resemble Christ directly. His partial left arm signifies that he lacks at least part of his spirituality. Because Shiftlet does not maintain a strict adherence to the ideals of Christian faith, he cannot form the completed cross.
Shiftlet's ultimate lack of religious faith and his desecration of the image of Christ clarify once he begins to speak.
When taken in context with his actions, Shiftlet's words call his Christian faith into question. According to Shiftlet, "Nothing is like it used to be, the world is almost rotten" (49). Part of the reason that things have changed is simply because people like Shiftlet have decided to take advantage of others. During his life, Christ attempted to better the lives of others through good deeds; throughout this story, Shiftlet attempts to better his life through actions that might be misconstrued as good deeds. Yes, Shiftlet does make numerous repairs around the Craters' farm, but he does not have selfless intentions. Instead of doing nice things to help those around him, Shiftlet does nice things merely...