Literary Analysis: The Lame Shall Enter First Nakia Chambliss Baptist College of Health Sciences Literary Analysis: The Lame Shall Enter First There are three main characters in this story: Sheppard, Norton and Rufus. Each character in this story is experiencing an emotional battle which they try to find healing but for some it will be too late. The narrator in the story is Sheppard. Sheppard is a widow, his wife died in less than a year before the story began. Sheppard experiences emotional distress by trying hard to change a troubled teen, Rufus, into an honorable young man while teaching his son, Norton, to be selfless.
Instead he is actually deceived by his own misconceptions and finds himself in turmoil with Rufus and at disconnect with Norton. Norton, an innocent ten- year old is heartbroken by the fact that his mother died and he misses her very much. He is unknowingly searching for unconditional love which his father does not offer to him.
Rufus is a troubled teen but very religious. He believes in God and the ramifications of sin. He believes that if you do bad deeds than you are working under Satan’s power but if you repent and be saved then you can enter into heaven and your sins will be forgiven, “The lame shall enter first”.
This very concept is what causes separation between Rufus, Sheppard and Norton. Sheppard has a position of being the city’s recreational director. The position is unpaid so he volunteers every weekend to visit the guys at the reformatory, particularly Rufus. That is where he spends most of his time and trying to make difference which becomes his top priority. Although Sheppard is doing good deed toward his city and the young men of the reformatory he does not believe in God and is a rationalist. Sheppard tries to spread his rationalist view to his son and to Rufus.
Norton is his ten year old son whom he tries to raise alone using the wisdom of fatherhood but he spends more time with Rufus than with his son. He has no patience or sympathy with his own son but can spend days and do anything for a total stranger that is ungrateful. A configuration of Rufus became Sheppard’s main concern. Sheppard think that by giving Rufus shelter, food, clothing and new shoes it would make him a better person and may change his perspective on life. Sheppard is a good moral individual but since he is an atheist it enrages Rufus.
Norton is a precocious ten year old. His father even imagined that Norton will be a banker or will manage a loan company because he learns how to save money (Lame, 367). He sells seeds and collected four quarts of coins. He became an entrepreneur at a young age but his father viewed that as being selfish. He even scrutinized Norton for eating too much because he threw up. All his father wanted was for him was to be altruistic and do well just like him (Lame, 366). Unfortunately, Norton has no one in his life that loves him and cares for him.
He has no friends, no other siblings it’s just him and his father, Sheppard. Norton has not retrieved from the death of his mother while Sheppard seems to be incapable of showing little or no emotion concerning his wife’s death. He even tells Norton to stop crying, “Don’t you think I miss her at all? I do, but I’m not sitting around thinking about my troubles? ” (Lame, 368). Sheppard view his son as selfish and ungrateful. He does not empathize with his son grief instead he believes Norton should be focused on doing good deeds to others.
Sheppard feels that he does a lot of good deeds since he volunteers weekly at the reformatory and help disadvantage young men. One of the troubled teens that he is helping is Rufus. Rufus is a 14 year old teen who has a mother in prison and his father whom he never knew. He was raised by his grandfather who is a radical advocate for his religion and severely abusive. Rufus was born with a club foot which distinguishes him from others because he walks with a limp. Sheppard spends more time with Rufus than the other guys in the reformatory because he has a high IQ and believes he has a bright future.
After a year in the reformatory, Rufus is emancipated. After several attempts of getting Rufus to stay with him and Norton, Rufus finally gives in and moves into Sheppard’s house. As the story progress, Rufus began to commit criminal acts like breaking in people houses. However, he never gets caught so Sheppard takes his word in spite of the police and is convinced that Rufus is not guilty. After days and of showing no improvement in his behavior Sheppard realizes that there is no hope for Rufus and then lastly Rufus is caught red-handed by the police, breaking in a house.
In the conclusion of the story Sheppard finds himself blinded by his Good Samaritan act toward Rufus and realizes that his son Norton is all he needed to be happy. He began to miss the days when it was just him and Norton and Norton selfish ways. Rufus began to win over the innocent Norton concerning God and the afterlife. Norton who is hungry for the truth of where his deceased mother rests, Rufus gives him a revelation that he desired. Rufus tells Norton that his mother is in heaven if she was a good person or” saved. ” Otherwise if she wasn’t then she is in the darkest, scariest, and hottest place of eternity… hell..
Since Norton had been abnormally closer to Rufus than he had ever been, Norton began to listen and become convinced of the religious view Rufus portrayed using the Holy Bible as evidence. Norton became a believer and a follower of Christ. He wanted answers and he received them through Bible. Before than Norton had became severely depressed because his father has been ignoring him for Rufus and he missed his mother. Norton knew that his mother was somewhere other than where his father told him. Sheppard, an atheist told Norton that his mother is no longer on earth and doesn’t dwell in the heavens or hell.
She just doesn’t exist any longer. That explanation was just not enough for Norton who longed to be with his mother. Norton searched for her in the sky at night when Rufus, Sheppard and Norton all looked through the telescope. Originally Sheppard bought the telescope for Rufus as a gift to help him see the universe or become enlightened beyond what he sees and believes on earth. Norton used this tool to find happiness, peace and love. He began to look through the eyes of the telescope to view the heavens in the sky each night, hoping to find his mother.
Instead that very own purpose of the telescope became the probe that caused and brought sorrow to Sheppard’s life. Rufus persuaded Norton that when he finds his mother in the heavens then he could join her when he dies. Blinded by his self righteousness, Sheppard realized that he was misdirected and that Rufus was never going to change no matter how hard he tried and how many gifts he sheltered him with. Once he tried to intervene and make it right with his son unfortunately, it was too late. Norton had committed suicide by hanging himself trying to get to his mother. References O’Connor, Flannery. (1962). The Lame Shall Enter First , 367-391
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