The Good Shepherd and the Black Sheep: Paradoxical Irony in "The Lame Shall Enter First"

1024 Words Jan 15th, 2012 5 Pages
"[W]hen thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth" counsels the Bible, thus setting the precedent for all well-meaning members of western society concerning their charitable intentions (Matt. 6.3). Humanity's motivation to aid others, regardless of the outcome, is oft times spotted by the subtle struggle between selflessness and selfishness. Flannery O'Connor captures this classic conflict between good and evil in Southern Grotesque fashion through her characters, the protagonist Sheppard and his foil, Rufus Johnson, in [comment2] "The Lame Shall Enter First".[comment3] Challenging the literal paradigm of light and darkness, O'Connor weaves together well crafted characterization, cryptic dialogue, and both …show more content…
The ambiguous dialogue between the two main characters continues to blur the line between the traditional literal concept of good versus evil and the author's own Grotesque version. [comment7] O'Connor's use of foreshadowing and plot development through dialogue is essential to the work, and is much more obvious upon rereading it. Though Sheppard's works are concrete and compassionate, his words are abstract and empty. His answers to both Norton and Rufus come in rehearsed, logical explanations. [comment8] Sheppard's attempts to animate either child about their future are thwarted by his own uncertainty. The clearest example of this comes from one of the most crucial sections of the story, when Sheppard fails to satisfy Norton's desire to know where his deceased mother is: "She doesn't exist [. . .] That's all I have to give you, [. . .] the truth" (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 faint light flickers from behind the "black sheen [that] appear[ed] in the boy's eyes" (375) as he describes the existence of heaven and hell to Norton, confirming that the boy's 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

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