The Concept of Scapegoating

The Concept of Scapegoating as illustrated in the Life of Mr. Sheppard in “The Lame Shall Enter First” by Flannery O’Connor. It is evident that we are living in a world characterized by various evils that are being committed by human beings. However, since the society does not have a place for the evils, human beings always try to act right in order to maintain their place in the already evil society. Scapegoating is one way that human beings use to try and deal with their own evil deeds since it is the nature of humanity to hide their negative habits, feeling and behaviors. According to Zweig & Abrams, scapegoating is illustrated as a habit committed by people who usually believe that they are above reproach; “they sacrifice others to preserve their image of perfection (pp. 7)”. As a result, they shift their blame to people who try to reproach them in a mechanism known as a projection. This is due to the fact that evil people are usually in conflict with the world and they usually believe that their conflict is caused by the same world. Therefore, more often than not, evil results as a result of scapegoating. It is important to study scapegoating to be in a position to understand various behaviors by some people in the society. In addition, Psychology is a science that studies human behavior and scapegoating is just one concept that explains the same. The Lame Shall Enter First is a short story by Flannery O’Connor, a female author who was in existence during the era of the mid 20th century. The story is quite disturbing as it focuses on the main character Sheppard who is not only windowed for more than twelve months, but also has a demanding duty of taking care of his son Norton, aged ten years. Both father and son are seen struggling to cope up with their loss. However, the father fails to recognize and respond to the feelings of his son. Instead, he assumes and believes that they should not worry too much but ought to commit their lives in to acts of charity. Sheppard is a local volunteer counselor who majors in helping the abandoned boys. Rufus is a reformatory boy who he turns his attention to at the expense of his son Norton. Conversely, Rufus is not interested in Sheppard efforts as he is a deviant and a thief at the same time. His is influenced by the belief that his evil behavior is the work of Satan. In addition, Rufus also maintains that all sins can be forgiven and that is the reason why the book is titled that The Lame Shall Enter First meaning the evil people shall enter heaven first as their sins shall be forgiven. Still in his efforts to transform Rufus, Sheppard buys Rufus a telescope to help him view the sky and become bright. However, using the same telescope, Rufus was able to convince Norton that he would be in a position to see his mother if he died when he was still young. As a result, Norton committed suicide and it was too late for Sheppard to do anything and save the situation. Sheppard, the main character in the story has issues that need to deal with but instead; he ends up shifting the blame elsewhere. Therefore, this essay shall discuss the issue of scapegoating while focusing on the characters in the story, ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’ by Flannery O’Connor. The sorrow that Sheppard suffers due to the loss of his wife can not be underestimated. Nonetheless, it would not be an understatement to mention that Sheppard is an escapist because instead of coping with his problem and helping his son out of the same, he shifts his attention to offering voluntary counseling services. Ironically, he shifts his attention to boys who are abandoned and by doing; he ends up abandoning his own son. Even after a year after his mother’s death, the boy continues to grief for his mother as the story illustrates that he would cry most of the time and even refuse to take his food. In response to the son’s grief, Sheppard says, “If you stop thinking about yourself and think of what you can do for somebody else… then you’ll stop missing your mother (O’Connor pp. 373)”. Sheppard continues to explain to his son that he also misses the mother or the wife but instead of thinking about his troubles, he is usually busy helping other people. Helping others is a very good habit, but on the other hand, it ought to be done with a clear motive and without affecting the life of other people. The story illustrates that the main reason why Sheppard was helping was for the purpose of running away from his troubles and responsibility. Therefore, Sheppard is very good at scapegoating since he sees his own evil in his son as he goes to an extent of saying that the son is selfish since he does take trouble of helping other people in the society.

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