The Lame Shall Enter First Analysis

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The Religion of Disability: How Flannery O’Connor Uses the Concept of Disability in “The Lame Shall Enter First” In her short story, “The Lame Shall Enter First” Flannery O’Connor shares the tale of a self-righteous reformatory counselor, Sheppard, who forgoes the raising of his own son to embark on a quest to improve the life of a young miscreant, Rufus Johnson, who has a clubbed foot. Eventually after devoting all his time and effort to the saving of this young boy, Sheppard realizes the selfish nature of his actions, but it is too late to save to save his own son. O’Connor employs disability perceptions through the contrasting ideas of confinement and freedom as well as the idea of moral superiority. Through the unique interplay between her characters, O’Connor highlights the irony of the able-bodied perspective to convey the humorous notion of moral rehabilitation. Flannery O’Connor uses disability in many of her short stories as an ironic device to denote a larger, societal theme. In “The Lame…show more content…
Sheppard, his name itself being an allusion to Christ, sees himself as a do-gooder with moral superiority. Johnson even exclaims to Norton, “He thinks he’s Jesus Christ!” (O’Connor 464) In direct contrast to Sheppard’s compassionate façade, his true selfishness is eventually realized in the final moments of the story as he woefully repeats the phrase “I did more for him than I did for my own child.” (O’Connor 486) While Johnson’s disability is used as a foil for Sheppard’s awakening, her decision to make Johnson more than just a flat character (more than just his disability) directly defies the stereotype that characters with disability only exist in literature to further the growth of the protagonist. Holly A. Moore in her analysis: “Spiritual Epiphanies: The Role of Disability
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