Wednesday, July 17, 2019
The Good Shepherd and the Black Sheep: Paradoxical Irony in “The Lame Shall Enter First”
When thou doest alms, let non thy left over(p) reach know what thy right hand doeth counsels the Bible, thus set dismissg the precedent for all head-intentioned members of western society concerning their charitable intentions (Matt. 6. 3). Humanitys motivation to c ar others, regardless of the outcome, is oft times spotted by the subtle struggle between selflessness and selfishness. Flannery OConnor captures this incorrupt conflict between good and evil in Southern marvellous fashion by her partings, the booster shot Sheppard and his foil, Rufus Johnson, in comment2 The Lame Shall Enter First. comment3 ambitious the literal paradigm of light and darkness, OConnor weaves together head crafted pictorial matter, cryptic dialogue, and both scriptural and literary allusion in this paradoxical plot and, by way of Sheppard and the different Rufus, blends the black and white of Christian dogma into an humorous grey. The contrast of light and dark begins with the description and typeization of the apparently angelic comment4 Sheppard, and continues with the introduction of the obscure and inauspicious Rufus Johnson. OConnor is not pretentious in her description and organic evolution of either character.Sheppards white hair and halo are unmistakable references to his protagonistic status as the storys do-gooder comment5 (Norton 371). The teller continues on by lauding his charitable contribution to the fellowship as a counselor and weekend offer up for boys no one else cared some (372). The readers further initial clue toward Sheppards self-righteous mania is his deliberate, guilt-implying sermon towards Norton, his disconcert and doomed son. It is not, however, until the arrival of the dim, drenched Rufus that come alongingly unappeasable white coat of Sheppard loses its untainted radiance. comment6 Johnson is literally lay out as the black sheep from the moment he limps into the kinsperson in his soaking wet black character (376). The ul timate personification of evil comes when he is physically compared directly to the perennial villian Adolf Hitler (378). His opaque character is true as dark as his appearance with his unending ingratitude and spiteful dustup toward his hypothetical savior, Sheppard. The am overlargeuous dialogue between the two main characters continues to blur the line between the traditional literal concept of good versus evil and the authors testify Grotesque version. comment7 OConnors use of foreshadowing and plot development through dialogue is essential to the work, and is much more obvious upon rereading it. Though Sheppards works are concrete and compassionate, his words are abstract and empty. His answers to both Norton and Rufus come in rehearsed, logical explanations. comment8 Sheppards attempts to animate either child about their future are thwarted by his own uncertainty. The clearest example of this comes from one of the closely crucial sections of the story, when Sheppard fai ls to fit Nortons desire to know where his deceased mother is She doesnt subsist . . Thats all I have to give you, . . . the verity (383). comment9 Where the good shepherd fails, the black sheep prevails. The dark character that Rufus is developed into shows an admirable assurity and for once a promiscuous light flickers from behind the black sheen that appeared in the boys eyes (375) as he describes the existence of promised land and sanatorium to Norton, confirming that the boys mother is saved (383). Then, in one of the most obvious uses of foreshadowing in the story, Rufus goes on to tell Norton comment10 that Right now youd go where she is . . . but if you live long enough, youll go to hell (383). Once again Sheppard and his voice of reason seem to grow grayer as he immediately tells Norton to tightly fitting the window, as if to separate him from the stars and his newly found trust in the existence of his mother (383). Admittedly influenced by her orthodox Christian background (408), OConnor scatters both biblical and as disuniteed literal allusions throughout her story, creating somewhat of a parody of common Christian themes. The use of Sheppard as the name of the protagonist binds the character to some sacred comparison immediately.This is only reinforced when Rufus pronounces bitterly He thinks hes Jesus Christ (381) comment11Another use of allusion with reference to Sheppard is Rufus comment12 inexpertly accurate accusation of him as a big tin Jesus (395). Like the forlorn tin man from The Wizard of Oz, Rufus statement argues that Sheppard is just as hollow as that empty, heartless shell of a man, regardless of his outwardly good deeds. Perhaps the most encompassing phrase in the story is OConnors allusion to the versify in St.Matthew quoted in the first paragraph. comment13 Repeated both at the beginning of the story and in his utmost appearance, Rufus declares that Sheppard dont know his left hand from his right (377, 395). all the way OConnor is alluding to Sheppards selfish or misguided agenda well illustrated when he tells Norton of his desire to help the orphaned Rufus. Sheppards publically done deeds are challenged by Rufus, the noncompliant recipient of a well-meaning man pass through the motions, yet craving some sort of reward for his actions.The once polarized characters grow ever finisher with the equalizing power of reality. The Lame Shall Enter First ends as abruptly as it begins. There is no releasing victory for the alleged comment14 good shepherd, only the agony of total defeat. Sheppards epiphany comes too late and the ascetical contrast that once distinguished him from the dark fair game of his alms turns into the faded realization that he is no mitigate than the beleaguered beneficiary.Through OConnors strategic literary devices, deft character contrast, and parody of entrenched Christian values, the reader is left to digest and dissect the fact that maybe the stainless flock comment 15 isnt worth one black sheep. between the black and white islands of moral certainty, good and evil, on that point lies a sea of ironic grey. Works Cited The mightiness James Version. Great Britain Cambridge UP, 1996. OConnor, Flannery. The Lame Shall Enter First. The Norton presentment to Literature. Eds. Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter. 7th ed. New York Norton, 1998. 371-414.