In Flannery O’Connors’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” “GoodCountry People,” and “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” she explores theconsequences of the combination of hypocrisy, gullibility in social contacts,and the role of being raised at mother’s knee. Reared a strict Roman Catholicand writing in the Bible Belt South O’Connor encountered those character flawsfirst hand. The repetitive hypocrisy displayed in these three short stories isportrayed by only the men suggesting that O’Connor has certain issues withmen. Tom Shiftlet in “The Life You Save May be Your Own,” wearing his blacktown suit and brown hat met these two women, Lucynell Crater Sr. and herdaughter Lucynell Jr. O’Connor depicted him as “a tramp and no one to beafraid of,” but in reality he is a man who makes and breaks his claims and itthe process blemishing his company’s spirit. When he claims, “I can’t getmarried right now,” and later the trio goes into town to marry Mr. Shiflet andLucynell Jr. is exactly the aim O’Connor wants to get across, hypocriticalmen. One may accidentally utter one statement and then act on the contrary, butin this short story Mr. Shiflet makes many remarks on his beliefs and almostopposing every one. One may inherit the impression that he is quite foolish byall of his self-righteous talk when he says people lie too much and latertelling the youth she was a hitchhiker. On his way to Tuscaloosa he picks up aboy who only spoke telling him, “You go to the devil!” Both the boy andLucynell Jr. represent innocence in this story and that opens Mr. Shiflet’snumb mind forcing him to change his perspective. Similar to Mr. Shiflet, yet notas repetitive as his hypocritical ways, the Bible salesman in “Good CountryPeople,” says “I may sell bibles but I know which end is up.” This youngman’s purpose in the beginning of the story is to sell a bible to a woman whorefuses to buy one and later to the daughter. A blatant example of his inherithypocrisy is also seen by Hulga when she says: “You’re just like them all? say one thing and do another. You’re a perfect Christian, you’re…”O’Connor outright expresses what she feels in all three of these short storiesin that brief comment. With men being hypocrites and women being gullible,O’Connor shows how well the two mix with each other. When Mr. Shiflet andLucynell Sr. first meet he comments: “How you know I ain’t Aaron Sparks,lady, and I come from Singleberry, Georgia, or how you know it’s not Georgespeeds and I come from Lucy, Alabama, or how you know I ain’t Thompson Brightfrom Toolafalls, Mississippi.” This is suggesting to the reader he actuallycould say any of them or any other far-fetched information and the Lucynell Sr.
would most likely believe it. O’Connor is portraying how the women of theSouth do not have a mind of their own, but a universal southern mind in whichdoes not protest or contradict anyone, but rather being close minded to thereality of the world that people lie. Just after meeting with the visitorLucynell Sr. allows Mr. Shiflet to sleep in a car and fix miscellaneous items inexchange for meals. This is a very assertive action she takes, but since shebelieves him to be a harmless man she would never expect the proceeding events.
Paralleling with “Good Country People,” O’Connor portrays the Freeman’sin the same situation as the Carters. Mrs. Freeman being approached by apersistent bible salesman is forced to make a decision and when he says “I’mjust a country boy,” she immediately turns into a helpless pawn under hiscontrol. After he interjects that comment she now trusts him and this is whenO’Connor represents the times women are most vulnerable to gullibility. Ashort while after Hulga has got to know the bible salesman she realizes that allof these die-hard “Chrustians” are all hypocrites and is the only onethroughout the three stories who has this insight. Another common thread betweenthe these short stories by O’Connor is they all depict the man in the story asbeing “raised at mother’s knee.” Meaning that they sat on their mother’sknee while she read them the bible and greatly pampered them. Mr. Shiftlet’sopinion on his mother is: “She taught him his first prayers at her knee, shegive