Two Sides To Every Story Essay, Research Paper
Two Sides to Every Story
Flannery O Connor s short story Revelation is the perfect example of dramatic irony. O Connor gives us, the reader, an insight into two sides of the central character, Ruby Turpin. Ruby Turpin sees herself as a kind person with a good disposition. As a reader we can see a very different side of Ruby Turpin.
Ruby Turpin sees herself as a respectable, hard-working, church-going woman. (Pg. 989) Ruby Turpin measures all things and sees all people through the frame of her own ego. Ruby likes to wonder what type of person she would have chosen to be if she couldn t have been herself. She would have wiggled and squirmed and begged and pleaded (Pg. 981) not to have been made a nigger or white trash (Pg. 981). Another of her intellectual hobbies is to classify others. O Connor writes Mrs. Turpin occupied herself at night naming the classes of people (Pg. 981). Ruby Turpin s classifications of others are based solely on her standards of acceptability. She is especially critical of blacks and people she sees as poor white trash. On Ruby Turpin s social scale colored people are on the bottom of the heap (Pg. 981). Then next to them–not above, just away from–were the white trash; then above them were the home-owners, and above them the home-and-land owners, to which she and Claud belonged. Above she and Claud were people with a lot of money and much bigger houses and much more land (Pg. 981-982). Ruby Turpin clings to her good works and her social class as a badge of worthiness. She says her philosophy of life is to help anybody out that needed it (Pg. 985) She never spared herself when she found somebody in need, whether they were white or black, trash or decent (Pg. 985)
Flannery O Connor uses the hog as a symbol of unredeemed human nature. Just as no amount of cleansing will ever change the essence of the hog, no amount of good works or intellectual justification will change the nature of human beings. Ruby fails to see a common denominator between her fallen humanity and that of blacks, poor white trash, freaks, and lunatics. Ruby Turpin s nosy judgments on other social groups can be seen as the equivalent of the hog s a-gruntin and a-rootin all over the place (Pg. 983). In a sense, Ruby has assumed the role of God and anointed herself as the ultimate judge of human behavior.
Ruby Turpin believes herself blessed by god because He had not made her a nigger or white-trash or ugly! He had made her herself and given her a little of everything (Pg.985-986). She thanks the Lord that she has been blessed with a good disposition. But as a reader we can see that behind this mask of self-righteousness is a level of social snobbery and racism that makes her stereotypical comments on others reek of hypocrisy.
Ruby Turpin s fall from her perch of judgment is predictable, but it comes in a rather unexpectedly violent manner. She is struck in the head by a heavy college textbook, Human Development (Pg. 980), and knocked almost unconscious. The book itself can perhaps be seen as a symbol of a lesson she needs to learn. This blow awakens Ruby Turpin to the inner world of other people and helps her to realize that they are just as free as she is to stereotype and categorize according to subjective whims. Then, to her horror, she learns that the college girl who threw the book sees her as a wart-hog from hell (Pg. 989). The college girl s tirade can be seen as the voice of the prophet who brings a revelation to Ruby Turpin. Ruby tries to deny that the girl s message was meant for her but she realizes that the girl s eyes and her words, even the tone of her voice brooked no redemption. She had been singled out for the message (Pg. 989). It is only after Ruby gets hit in the head with the book and nearly strangled that she begins to apply the college girl s prophetic vision to her own life. We can only hope that she will see that if you stop judging others you will not be judged (Matthew 7:1).
The fact that this revelation was directed at her makes Ruby angry Her eyes burned instead with wrath (Pg. 989). Ruby thinks, there was trash in the room to whom it might justly been applied (Pg. 989). Once again Ruby fails to see fault with herself. You would think that as a respectable, hard-working, church-going woman (Pg. 989) she would be able to see that God will treat you as you treat others (Matthew 7:2).
Another irony in the story is evident when the blacks that work on Ruby s farm unmask her fa ade of propriety. When she talks to the Negroes that day on her farm, they tell her You is the sweetest lady I know Jesus satisfied with her (Pg. 991). By hearing the falseness of such flattery she realizes the emptiness of her own self-evaluation. Even though she can see the emptiness of her self-evaluation, we can see that she still continues to think the same thoughts about blacks. Idiots! Mrs. Turpin growled to herself. You never could say anything intelligent to a nigger. You could talk at them but not with them (Pg. 991).
Then later, when she roars at God about the injustice of this revelation Who do you think you are? (Pg. 993) she only hears a garbled echo (Pg. 993) of her own question. Left with a reverse hierarchy of saved individuals where she sees whole companies of white trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics and bringing up the end of the procession those, who like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything (Pg. 993-994). Ruby sees what God has in store for all social classes a vision where many who are now first will be last, and many who are now last will be first (Matthew 19:30).
It is not clear whether or not this vision will change Ruby Turpin s view of other people. In her mind if you put that bottom rail on top. There ll still be a top and a bottom! (Pg.993)