Flannery O'Connor: The Life You Save May Be Your Own

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SWBAT analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama by connecting the title to significant themes.

Big Idea

The grotesque and the obsessed maneuver through the American South.


In reading "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," I break up the story into two parts.  I find that students cannot sit for more than 30 minutes to read a story.  Additionally, I am constantly checking for understanding and making sure students are paying attention through the use of guided reading questions.  I take some time in developing some scaffolding to lead students to the crux of my lesson which has to do with how the title connects to the overall themes of the work. The title of the story serves as the foundation for major themes in the story.  I introduce the concept of the slogan so that students will begin to see a connection between the title and theme.  We then segue into reading the story.

The key to successful implementation of this short story is to ensure that students are able to extract meaning from a slogan and they have researched the meaning to "A life you save may be your own."  This information will be necessary in the day 2 of the lesson.

Quiz: "A Rose for Emily"

25 minutes

To assess for understanding since the short story is difficult, I will give students a quiz on "A Rose for Emily."  The quiz is all short answer and requires students to apply the characteristics of a Southern Gothic to the short story.  I essentially want to assess if they are able to recognize these structures in a work of literature.

Pre-Reading: Advertising Slogans

10 minutes

In this pre-reading activity, I want students to make a connection to the title of the story, which is an old slogan from the 1960s that was used to convince people to drive 55 miles per hour.  I will introduce the concept of a slogan in this activity and how it is a slick, short technique to promote a product or image. Students are asked to notice the message that is depicted in each slogan.

After reading the story, I will loop back to the story's title and ask students to conjecture why O'Connor used this slogan as the title of her work.  Basically, the title is analagous to the selfish nature of the two main characters: Mr. Shiftlet and Mrs. Crater.  The only life that both of these characters wish to save is their own.

In this activity, I will project several popular product slogans on the projector and ask students to identify three and explain (in a quick write) what these slogans mean, what product is being sold, and words can be an effective persuasive device.

I follow up the activity by playing the attached video to reinforce popular slogans.

Notes: Flannery O'Connor and the Grotesque

15 minutes

In this section, I will use a PowerPoint to introduce students to Flannery O'Connor and her writing style.  I want to emphasize that her chronic illness caused her to grow an affinity for social outcasts.  These outcasts were often the subjects of her work.  My goal is for students to see how the personal life of a writer influences their work, similar to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Secondly, I am introducing the concept of a grotesque character, which is a staple to the Southern Gothic.  All the characters in the story would be considered grotesque in that they all have some sort of obsession that twists their perceptions.

(PowerPoint is in the Pre-reading section)

Read: "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" Part I

20 minutes

Because of the pre-reading and notes, I split the story into two days.  Each day there are guided reading questions to engage students.  I stop occasionally to review questions.  I often "volunteer" students to report their answers.  We will read the story round-robin style.  The questions  predominantly require students to either use text evidence to support their answers or interpret text to ensure that students understand the basic concepts of the story.  It also keeps them focused and on task.  I will stop occassionally to answer the questions and to check for student understanding.  Later on in the lesson, I will delve into more complicated activities.


Again, to identify the signficance of the story's title, I ask students to do a Google search of the slogan, "The Life You Save May Be Your Own."  Students will answer the following questions:

1. How did the slogan originate?

2. What is being advertised?

3. What is the difference between an advertisement and a public service announcement?

4. Predict why you believe O'Connor used this title for the story.

Students will also provide a bibliography of sources.