Physiognomy In Good Country People Short Story

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In the short stories “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” and “Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor, the author uses physiognomy to advance the theme of each work. In “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” the theme of people are who they appear to be is present, particularly in the characters of Mr. Shiftlet and the older Lucynell. In “Good Country People,” the theme of intellectual superiority is driven by the character Joy believing she is better than the people around her, due to her education. Flannery O’Connor’s use of physiognomy in “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” better advances the overall theme than in “Good Country People.” Due to the more detailed physiognomy in the story, the theme in “The Life You Save May Be Your Own”…show more content…
For example, the younger Lucynell Crater is described as having a blue dress and blue eyes. Symbolically, this is meant to show that Lucynell is trusting and peaceful, as that is what blue represents. Lucynell is shown to be very trusting, including trusting Mr. Shiftlet to take her away from her mother. Additionally, Mr. Shiftlet has black hair, which symbolically represents power and mystery. Mr. Shiftlet is a mysterious man in the story, who is able to gain power over the older Lucynell and get her to give him the car. One final example of symbolism in “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” is when Mr. Shiftlet “swung both his whole and his short arm up slowly so that they… formed a crooked cross.” Symbolically, this shows that Mr. Shiftlet will be like Jesus, since he was crucified on a cross. This ends up being true, as Mr. Shiftlet begins to “resurrect” things on the farm, building a new hog pen, teaching Lucynell to say a new word, and even making a car run for the first time in fifteen years. However, since Mr. Shiftlet formed a crooked cross, this shows that he will not be an entirely good person like Jesus was. This is also true, as Mr. Shiftlet ends up abandoning…show more content…
This is especially true for Manley Pointer, the Bible salesman. Pointer’s physiognomy seems to indicated that he is a pretty normal person, as his description does not prove to be anything out of the ordinary. However, Pointer ends up being a bad guy and steals Joy’s prosthetic leg. While the physiognomy fails with some characters, it is helpful with others. For example, Mrs. Freeman is described as having “beady steel-pointed eyes” (O’Connor, “Good Country People”). This description of Mrs. Freeman shows that she is very inquisitive and will figure things out. Mrs. Freeman is very nosy and knows a lot of things other people don’t know. While this physiognomy provides a good description of Mrs. Freeman, she is not a very important character. One final example of physiognomy in “Good Country People” is Joy being described as “bloated, rude and squint-eyed” (O’Connor, “Good Country People”). This description shows that Joy feels that she is better than other people because she is more educated. However, this turns out not to be true as Manley Pointer outsmarts her. The theme of “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” is better advanced through
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