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The plot of this story is very simple, and moves along at an even pace, from detail to detail. The conversations between Mrs. Crater and Mr. Shiftlet are exquisitely crafted, showing each of their interest and crafty thinking, while obviously heading for disaster-- meanwhile, the two agree with each other like crazy. The bargain conversation--over Lucynell, painting the car, and money for the honeymoon--is hilarious and sad.
Again, O'Connor sets up a situation with several people who have desires that are no so simple, considering the situation. Mrs. Crater is, in many ways, as crafty and shiftless as Mr. Shiftlet (note the names) and, like him, many of her notions are meant well, se just can't quite keep greed out of the picture.
Lucynell is left in a cafe, the result of Mr. Shiftlet and her mother's lies and poor thinking. When the waiter fingers her hair, there is a note of terrible foreboding--the type that O'Connor is a genius at presenting.
The title is, of course, ironic. Not only are no lives saved, several are damaged. Mr. Shiftlet apparently saves his own, but at a cost to himself. He wants to believe all the things he says, and he feels terribly depressed about his bad behavior, but not enough to make him do anything different. Mrs. Crater, the reader may think, ought to know better, but is also blinded by another sort of greed, and sacrifices her idiot daughter. Greedy people treat each other terribly, and the tragedy in the story turns rather funny, when so much of the discussion turns on doing the right thing because so few people do things right nowadays.
Lies in this story are lies to one's self. Along with the greed, there is payback. At the end, Mr. Shiftlet prays, but a huge storm is chasing him all the way to Mobile, and he has left a hurt and possibly dead boy in the road behind him. All his bad deeds are chasing him, and it is implied that they will eventually catch him.