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“A Moral Intelligence”: Mental Disability and Eugenic Resistance in Welty’s “Lily Daw and the Three Ladies” and O’Connor’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own”

“A Moral Intelligence”: Mental Disability and Eugenic Resistance in Welty’s “Lily Daw and... “AMoralIntelligence”: MentalDisabilityandEugenic ResistanceinWelty’s“LilyDaw andtheThreeLadies”and O’Connor’s“TheLifeYouSave MayBeYourOwn” by Alison Arant When Mr. Shiftlet, the one- armed itinerant of Flannery O’Connor’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” attempts to con- vince Mrs. Crater, his would- be host, that he is useful despite his hand- icap, he argues against the existence of a link between physical ability and moral character: “There ain’t a broken thing on this plantation that I couldn’t fix for you, one- arm jackleg or not. I’m a man,” he says, “even if I ain’t a whole one. I got . . . a moral intelligence!” (149). Mr. Shiftlet’s declaration is savvy given his own condition and that of Mrs. Crater’s daughter, who has severe mental disabilities. In disputing a connection between physical fitness and moral competence, Mr. Shiftlet denies one of the central tenets of the eugenics movement, which was most inu fl en - tial in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. Privileging nature over nurture, eugenic ideology held that heredity determined both the biological and moral traits of the individual. This connection created a hierarchy in which moral intelligence correlated with physical wellness and separated the “t fi ” http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

“A Moral Intelligence”: Mental Disability and Eugenic Resistance in Welty’s “Lily Daw and the Three Ladies” and O’Connor’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own”

The Southern Literary Journal , Volume 44 (2) – Jun 10, 2012

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 the Southern Literary Journal and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

“AMoralIntelligence”: MentalDisabilityandEugenic ResistanceinWelty’s“LilyDaw andtheThreeLadies”and O’Connor’s“TheLifeYouSave MayBeYourOwn” by Alison Arant When Mr. Shiftlet, the one- armed itinerant of Flannery O’Connor’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” attempts to con- vince Mrs. Crater, his would- be host, that he is useful despite his hand- icap, he argues against the existence of a link between physical ability and moral character: “There ain’t a broken thing on this plantation that I couldn’t fix for you, one- arm jackleg or not. I’m a man,” he says, “even if I ain’t a whole one. I got . . . a moral intelligence!” (149). Mr. Shiftlet’s declaration is savvy given his own condition and that of Mrs. Crater’s daughter, who has severe mental disabilities. In disputing a connection between physical fitness and moral competence, Mr. Shiftlet denies one of the central tenets of the eugenics movement, which was most inu fl en - tial in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. Privileging nature over nurture, eugenic ideology held that heredity determined both the biological and moral traits of the individual. This connection created a hierarchy in which moral intelligence correlated with physical wellness and separated the “t fi ”

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Jun 10, 2012

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