’connor Essay, Research Paper Author Flannery O+Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, on March 25, 1925. She was born and raised Catholic, facts that defined her personal faith and helped shape her independent and ironic take on life. According to our textbook, “O+Connor+s fiction grapples with living a spiritual life in a secular world”(318).
’connor Essay, Research Paper
Author Flannery O+Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, on March 25, 1925. She was born and raised Catholic, facts that defined her personal faith and helped shape her independent and ironic take on life. According to our textbook, “O+Connor+s fiction grapples with living a spiritual life in a secular world”(318). Her novels and stories all involve the theme of religion and questions about spirituality. In fact, in many of her stories, the main character questions his or her own faith or undergoes a major revelatory change. This essay starts of asking the question: does the main character in O+Connor+s short story “Revelation” undergo an actual revelation? And answers that question with a resounding “no.”
At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to Mrs. Turpin, a loud, racist southern landowner. She believes that there are classes of people, and blacks, for example, are below homeowners, but above white trash. She does not, however, consider herself racist. This is a dangerous characteristic to have. She claims to treat blacks well, but she refers to them as “niggers” and clearly states that she is above them. Mrs. Turpin is grateful to be a “superior” white landowner who is above the white trash in the waiting room and the black helpers on her farm. She is repulsively guilty of pride and obsessed with status and property She believes you have to “have certain things before you can know certain things”(344).
Her “revelation” is brought on by an unattractive, yet well educated young woman in a doctor+s office. Mary Grace ends up throwing a book at Mrs. Turpin because of her frustration with the woman+s ignorance. After Mrs. Turpin gets knocked upside the head, she looks at Mary Grace, expecting God to talk to her, and she is told that she is a “wart hog.” Mrs. Turpin, still thinking this is a message from God, is quite confused by it. She doesn+t know where it came from, or its true meaning, so she searches herself for
it. She ends up, supposedly, “seeing the light” while hosing down the pigs in her pig parlor.
The first impression the reader gets of Mrs. Turpin is one of dominance. She is portrayed as “large” and “loud.” She controls her husband, Claud, treating him like a child. She immediately takes over the conversation in the room and forces her opinions and thoughts onto everyone. She proceeds to judge everybody in the doctor+s waiting room: pitying the girl with acne while she takes pride in the fact she “always had good skin”(341), and calling the “white trash” woman and child “worse than niggers”(341). After the reader is subjected to the different classes according to Mrs. Turpin, the reader hears an ironic lyric that Mrs. Turpin supplies. A hymn comes over the radio in the waiting room and “Mrs. Turpin, who knew it, supplied the last line mentally, ‘And wonna these days I know I+ll we-eara crown+”(341). This line tells the reader that Mrs. Turpin believes she is so much better than everyone else that she wants to lord over them. She “knows” someday she+ll be wearing a crown, meaning she believes she has some sort of “royal blood.” In ancient Egypt, the people believed that their pharaohs were divine, meaning God chose them. It seems as if Mrs. Turpin is foreshadowing the ending when she believes she is so important that God, himself, talks to her. The reader gets an ugly look at the inside of Mrs. Turpin+s mind where she thinks that if Jesus said to her “you can either be a nigger or white trash…she would have wriggled and squirmed and begged and pleaded” and finally decided to be black(342). This paragraph shows how Mrs. Turpin+s prejudicial and bigoted nature controls her, even her thoughts on Jesus Christ. It shows just how
racist Mrs. Turpin actually is. Even though she would “choose” to be black, she claims she would have a hard time deciding, and she would only be black if she could be just like herself, only black. This shows that she is clearly class conscious and judgmental.
The passage where she distinguishes between all the classes is one of the most important passages in the story. It clearly shows the nature of Mrs. Turpin: an ignorant, uneducated bigot who sees herself as a refined and tolerant woman. She says:
“On the bottom of the heap were most colored people, not the kind she would have been if she had been one, but most of them; then next to them-not above, just away from-were the white-trash; then above them were the homeowners, 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”(342).
If there was any doubt to the true nature of Mrs. Turpin+s character, it is cleared up here. Mrs. Turpin is clearly portrayed as a bigoted, self-centered woman. The reason this is the most important passage in the story is because it shows the reader what type of woman Mrs. Turpin truly is.
The next important passage in Revelation is where Mrs. Turpin is talking to the “white trash woman” and the “pleasant lady” about the black hands on her farm. She+s discussing the restructuring of the social hierarchy she+s built up, meaning the fact that blacks were beginning to rise up. She says “now you can+t get the niggers-because they got to be right up there with the white folks”(343). She goes on to say that that+s the way things will be from now on, and they just have to face it. She takes pride in the fact that she accommodates her “niggers.” She is proud that she says hello to them and brings them ice water when it+s hot.
This discussion she has with these women shows the reader that she thinks she+s being flexible, progressive, even charitable. When in all actuality, she calls blacks “niggers,” treats them like children and still expects them to be her slaves, picking cotton for her. Mrs. Turpin thinks she is being tolerant, when in all actuality, she is just showing herself as more and more of a bigot.
At this point in the story, all we know about Mary Grace is that she has acne on her face and a constant scowl when looking at Mrs. Turpin. We are led to believe that this girl is just mean and ugly. That changes, however. Mary Grace+s mother tells Mrs. Turpin that Mary Grace goes to Wellesly College, a prestigious school way up north. That+s where the reader+s view of Mary Grace changes. We see that Mary Grace is actually an educated young lady who is absolutely disgusted, and rightly so, by the amount ignorance coming out of Mrs. Turpin+s mouth. The last straw for Mary Grace comes when Mrs. Turpin talks down to her, telling her “it never hurt anyone to smile”(347), and then when she continues, saying how grateful she is for being made who she is. She praises Jesus for not making her black or white trash. Since Jesus is supposed to love everybody, the reader can conclude here that Mrs. Turpin
is even being blasphemous. After all, her religion states “love thy neighbor” and “humbleness is a virtue.”
Mary Grace is so filled with rage, aimed straight at Mrs. Turpin+s ignorant mind, that she takes her book, Human Development and hurls it at Mrs. Turpin, hitting her “directly over her left eye”(347).
The name of the book, Human Development, is a very significant and blatant use of symbolism in the story. It suggests to the reader that Mrs. Turpin has far to go in the course of her own “human development.” This story takes place during a time in history when things are changing, and people are realizing that blacks deserve equal treatment. Mrs. Turpin seems to not fully grasp the concept of black civil rights and fair treatment. The fact that a well educated girl like Mary Grace is reading a book entitled Human Development suggests to the reader that she is far more “modern” than someone like Mrs. Turpin, who has yet to “develop.” O+Connor portrays Mary Grace as someone who believes in equality and has no time for offensive jokes and reverie. She is far too “developed” for that.
After Mary Grace hits Mrs. Turpin with the book, her vision suddenly became distorted. She was beginning to see things as large instead of small. She looks over at Mary Grace, who is staring at her, and begins to realize that “the girl did know her, knew her in some intense and personal way, beyond time and place and condition”(348). The eyes of Mary Grace became clear, and Mrs. Turpin asks her “what do you got to say to me”(348)? Mrs. Turpin is expecting a message from God, himself, for she believes Mary Grace might be an angel sent down to give her a divine message. At this point, Mary Grace says to Mrs. Turpin, “go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hog”(348). When Mrs. Turpin hears this, she doesn+t know what to do. Her mind goes blank, her limbs go limp, and she+s trying to understand what has just been told to her.
Since Mrs. Turpin is blind to her own bigotry, Mary Grace+s rage seems to stem from nowhere on earth. For her, Mary Graces represents a point of view that she can not comprehend: one who sees the jokes and gossip of these southern bigots as evil and hellbound. Mrs. Turpin dismisses the possibility that Mary Grace might be right before she even considers it. As we have seen
before, she even uses her own religion to justify her prejudices.
Mrs. Turpin grapples with this comment and does not know how to go one without justifying it. Since she believes that God send that comment to her through Mary Grace, she wonders why God would do such a thing and doesn+t understand what she did to deserve it.
The revelatory+ change at the conclusion of the story is supposedly brought on by a change in Ruby Turpin+s system of beliefs. She needs something with what to rationalize Mary Grace+s comment, and so, she hallucinates this vision, considers herself the recipient of a divine message, and blames God. In all actuality, she creates this message herself because it is the only way she could go on with her life and put Mary Grace+s comment behind her. She does not really change, and in reality, she does not even fully grasp the important meaning and reasoning behind Mary Grace+s comment.
She finds herself in a pigpen, hosing down the hogs when a vision comes to her. She asks, God presumably, “What do you send me a message like that for? How am I a hog and me both? Why me? ” and “Who do you think you are”(352)? She is arguing with God, saying that he could have made her trash if she really was trash. “You could have made me a nigger”(352), she says. The fact that she is questioning God just reaffirms the reader+s notion that she thinks she is divine. No mortal can question the almighty lord. Clearly, Mrs. Turpin believes she is above mortality and can have conversations, accusatory conversations at that, with God.
The vision she gets is one of a “vast horde of souls rumbling toward heaven”(353).
“There were whole companies of whit-trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right”(353).
By the end of this vision, she seems even surer of her virtues, and she seems to believe that, because of this vision, she is even more sympathetic and non-judgmental. She is still, however, the same Mrs. Turpin who distinguishes between the classes, and calls people lunatics while calling herself, and her kind “respectable.” She labels “white-trash” and implies that they are naturally dirty. She calls black people “niggers” and sees them with white robes on. She still seems to think that her kind is better than
them, being that they have positive, God-given traits. She does have a revelation at the end. She does end up realizing that everyone goes to heaven, no matter what shoes they wear on their feet. She also, however, still makes judgments about others and refers to them with such terms as “white trash” and “niggers.”
Mrs. Turpin clearly does not change in the way that Mary Grace probably hoped she would have. If this were a true revelation, Mrs. Turpin would realize that all people deserve fair and equal treatment and the labeling of people and stereotypes she uses are wrong. Instead, although Mrs. Turpin realizes that everyone goes to heaven, she still does not believe in equality on earth. She believes that when everyone arrives in heaven, God cleans up the white trash, and makes the blacks white.
This so-called “vision” has done nothing for Mrs. Turpin except make her believe she is the recipient of a divine message, and probably will cause her to be more sure of her “virtues.” She has become a more dangerous and self-loving person because she now believes that she is not at all racist or elitist. The only thing more dangerous than a person who is a bigot is someone who is a bigot but believes in his or her godliness. This is the type of person Mrs. Turpin has become. She+s gone from bad to worse.
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