1. Mary Flannery O’connor was born in 1925 in Savannah Georgia, Devout Catholic and lived in the protestant south while growing up. She is often considered one of the best short stroy writers of the century. Her works often include recuring themes of religion inlfuences, interpretations of religion and religous contorversies. She often wrote in a sardondic southern gothic style and often regional settings and involved grotesque characters. O’connors writing highly reflected her roman catholic faith growing up in the south. Flannery attended the university of Iowa to study journaism and was accepted into Iows writers workshop. She graduated from the Universirty of Iowa in 1947. She pursued her career in writing attending Yadoo an artist community that aims to “nurture the creative process.”
2. Upon first reading The Lame Shall Enter First by Flannery O’Connor, I was very encaptured into the wrting, from the very beginning O’Connor used intricate details to introduce each of the characters. “Sheppard was a very young man whose hair was already white.” “He had very large round ears that leaned away from his head and seemed to pull his eyes slightly too far apart.”. While reading through i noticed there might have been something wrong with Norton pyscologically by his actions. “the child turned the bottle of ketchup upside down and began thumping ketchup on the cake.” Then i also found it pretty strange that Norton didnt have much interest in anything unless it dealt with his mother, for example at first Norton didnt even wanna look through the telescope, it was only until he was introduced to the concept of religion that he wanted to examine the stars in hope of catching a glimpse of his mother, when Norton claims to get a view of his mother he encourages himself to do a daring action. While reading through my first impression of Sheppard was the he was not compassionate and he had a big ego, this was evident when Sheppard decided to give his attention to a rude deliquent over his own son, even though the deliquent denied and disrespected him all throughout the story. “This was not normal grief. it was all part of his selfishness. She had been dead for over a year”. My first impression of Rufus was that he was very arrogant and evil. Rufus was rude to Norton on his first encounter with norton and was disrespecting Nortons mother by going into her room and using her un touched items, then he’s racist towards the cook Leola, then rufus disresepcts Sheppard by saying bad stuff about him even though Sheppard was trying to help Rufus and actually gave him all his devouted attention instead of his own son, Sheppard even went as far as to buy him an orthopedic shoe which would improve his life drastically, but Rufus ultimately wouldnt budge. Rufus really said that he would rather be in a reformatory than to b with Sheppard even though he would proivde for him. The Plot of the story was really good it always made you question why the characters would perform certain actions like why Sheppard would try so hard on Rufus and why Rufus would deny the aid of Sheppard. The conclusion was very well written from Rufus leaving Sheppards home in order to prove a point and then call out Sheppard for being an athiest. Sheppards epiphany was also a defining moment in the story, it made you believe that now the problem is gone everything would be fine, Sheppard would now provide all the attention that Norton needed and Nortons empty void would be filled. This was until it was unexpectaedly revealed that due to the misguidance Norton faced, he ended his own life thinking it would solve his problems.
“Johnson was as touchy about the foot as if it were a sacred object.” 459
O’Connor uses this similie to symbolize the importance of the club foot
“what are you going to be Norton,” Sheppard asked in a brittle voice, “a preacher too?”
There was a glitter of wild pleasure in the childs eyes. A space man!” 476
This foreshadows the ending of the story becuase at the end Norton ultimately takes his flight off into space.
Sheppards name is ironic “He had ignored his own child to feed his vision of himself” 481
O’connor uses Sheppards name ironically because A shepherd is someone who guides. And by the end of the story Sheppard cant guide anyone including his son
” a few feet over it, the child hung in the jungle of shadows, just below the beam from which he had had launched his flight into space.”482
O’Connor does not literally mean that Norton went off into space she alludes to Nortons dream of becoming a space man to see his mother by killing himself.
“I”ve eaten it like ezekiel and it was honey to my mouth”
“…and i dont want none of your food after it no no more ever”477
O’Connor alludes to the bible verse Ezekiel 3:1-3 where god gives ezekiel a scroll and ezekiel eats the words of god and after he ate it his muth was as sweet as honey. Rufus eats the page of the bible to symbolize that he believes in the bible and then tells Sheppard he doesnt need his food because all he needs gods words because they are sweet like honey.
4. Rufus Johnson the antagonist of the story is a 14-year-old incredibly intelligent religious teenager. Rufus has been for most of his life his mother was in a penitentiary and his father was that before he was born he was in the custody of his grandfather but his grandfather just left him. Rufus gets in the custody of Sheppard and and basically takes advantage of sheppard home and food. Rufus is very manipulative he commits a series of crimes without Sheppards knowledge. The police constantly go to sheppard’s home because of the distinct tracks that Rufus leaves behind with his club foot. The tension between Sheppard and Rufus increases when Rufus can’t take Anymore of Sheppard proposition of salvation. Rufus leaves Sheppard’s home for a while and is ultimately arrested and taken back sheppards home and during the confrontation Rufus call Sheppard a dirty atheist and says he would rather be in reformatory then his home. Rufus throughout the story symbolizes evil, Rufus committed a series of crimes in which he broke into homes and vandalized their property being very destructive, but is so careful he never gets officially caught by the police, therefore no blame can be passed onto him by his caretaker Sheppard. Rufus goes as far as to explicitly stating that “Satan has me in his power”. Furthermore proving that Rufus is up to no good.
Sheppard, is an atheist, he works as the city recreational director, through his job he meets the delinquent Rufus Johnson. Sheppard is also the father of Norton, whom Sheppard hardly cares about. A year prior to the story Sheppard’s wife dies. Sheppard has a very big ego because he believes that he has the power to save Rufus Johnson from being a delinquent. Although Sheppard’s name means a guide, ironically by the end of the story Sheppard can guide no one. Sheppard has a very big ego because he tries to constantly save Rufus from being a delinquent no matter how many times Rufus admits he won’t change. Sheppard expects a lot from Rufus because he’s very intelligent and wants him to prosper. When Rufus replies to Sheppard revealing his Christianity, Sheppard’s big ego and atheism are shown when he says “Were living in space age! You’re too smart to give me answer like that.” Basically ridiculing the religious people just because he doesn’t believe in it.
Norton is a 10-year-old boy, He is Sheppard’s son, his mother died about a year prior to the story. Sheppard dearly misses his mother. His father highly neglects him and calls him selfish for missing his mother. Sheppard wants Norton to be “good and unselfish” even though “neither seem likely”. Norton’s love for space symbolizes his longing for his mother. Norton says “I want to be spaceman” this foreshadows his future when at the end Norton appears to have committed suicide in an attempt to be with his mom in space.
5. Even though Sheppard is Norton’s father. Sheppard lacks the proper care giving to his child, which ultimately leads to his demise. Sheppard doesn’t believe the child is capable of changing in the ways he wants him t, he has not faith in his child. Sheppard finds a 14 year-old boy Rufus Johnson who he believes is very intelligent and ends up in custody of Rufus and then tries to reform the delinquent into a good citizen, but ultimately fails since Rufus detests the fact that Sheppard had such a big ego and was an atheist and because he believed Jesus would save him not Sheppard. So Sheppard thought he could change Rufus because he was intelligent, and saw himself in Rufus.
6. There were many example of symbolism throughout the story. One for example is the telescope and his love for space which symbolized Norton’s love for his mother and his yearning for his mother. From the beginning Norton is encouraged by Sheppard to become a cosmonaut. Norton really doesn’t consider becoming an astronaut, until his first confrontation with religion. Norton believes that his mother is space and that in order for him to see her he must become a spaceman. This is the reason why Norton would be in the attic looking up at the stars so often, he believes that he will find his mother out in space. Norton eventually convinces himself that he’s caught a glimpse of his mother. Norton sees this as a sign and then soon after Norton commits to being with his mother and takes his journey off into space, leaving his father in the mortal world.
7. One major theme in “The Lame Shall enter first” is selfishness. Selfishness is a major theme because throughout the story selfishness is portrayed by all characters. From the beginning Sheppard explicitly scolds his son Norton for missing his mother, but in reality Sheppard just lacks the empathy to see why his son is sad, and instead wants Norton to “good and unselfish”. Apart from that Sheppard is seen being selfish after providing for Rufus because he believes his son is uncapable of achieving the same knowledge. Rufus Johnson is also selfish he gets the chance to be salvaged from being homeless and from the reformatory, Rufus even gets a new orthopedic shoe for his club foot which would alter his life for the good, but Rufus denies it being stubborn saying he can get his own shoe when he needs to, Rufus ultimately denies this possibility for a new better life because he states that life would be better in. reformatory than with an atheist. The last character to show selfishness is Norton, sadly Norton ends up hanging himself thinking that will solve his issue, and doesn’t consider how it would affect the people around him.
8. One Biblical verse that is referenced in the story is the title which refers to Jeremiah 32 and Luke 16 “The Lame Enter First, or the Last Shall be First,” “The First Shall Be Last” is another interpretation of the verse this means that even though in the mortal world you might be first and you might be wealthy and successful, that doesn’t correlate in gods kingdom, so the “Last” would be the impoverished who have nothing but faith so therefore shall be the first to enter heaven. In reference to the story The Lame would be referencing to Norton since he was the character who was entirely neglected throughout the whole story, and was the first character to die, being the first to enter.
9. An epiphany that is reached by the end of the story is by Sheppard. On pages 481 when he begins to realize that Rufus never really deserved his attention because he was a bad influence and by giving Rufus all his time and energy instead of his own son. “He had ignored his own child to feed his vision of himself. He saw the clear-eyed Devil, the sounder of hearts , leering at the eyes of Johnson.” Sheppard started to realize that his own child was more important and he needed to provide for Norton. “A rush of agonizing love for the child rushed over him like a transfusion of life”. Sheppard rushed to find Norton to tell him that he loved him but alas it was too late, Norton already took his jump into space. “A few feet over it, the child hung in the jungle of shadows, just below the beam from which he had launched into space.”
10. The first known Irony of the story is actually Sheppard’s name it’s ironic because a shepherd is someone who guides and by the end of the story, Sheppard sadly couldn’t guide anyone including his own son. The main Irony throughout the story is that Sheppard is giving all his devoted attention to Rufus Johnson, the delinquent, Sheppard tries to shape Rufus into a carbon copy of himself, going as far as to buying him a new orthopedic shoe for him to prosper, Sheppard blinded by his own ego didn’t realize that Rufus wasn’t the one who needed help but it was his own flesh and blood who needed the guidance, Norton was greatly affected by the passing of his mother he needed the love and compassion that no one provided for him, which ended up costing his life.