In her short story, “Revelation”, Flannery O’Connor discusses what it truly means to be a good person, despite society’s common perceptions. She uses the theme of hypocrisy to highlight that someone may have a positive appearance to the rest of the world, but their motives can reveal that they are not who they seem. O’Connor conveys this message to her audience by using various types of rhetoric and symbolism. Like many of her other stories, she uses religion to show that god is judging our actions, and that one’s true values cannot be faked.
By using he main character’s connection to god, O’Connor also builds artificial credibility for her main character of the story: Mrs. Turpin. These religious morals, however, contrast with Mrs. Turpin’s actions such as judging others based on their social status, doing things just to seem ethical, and seeing herself as above the rest of the characters in the story. This clear contrast of values and actions allows the reader to logically deduce the hypocrisy of Mrs. Turpin being a moral individual. When Mrs. Turpin talks lowly of the other characters, it also forces the eader to feel sorry for their unfortunate predicaments.
Finally, O’Connor also connects the her audience’s emotions by making them pity Mrs. Turpin for not understanding what she had done wrong. All of these elements work together to preach a message of acting according to your ideals, and not placing yourself above others for doing so. O’Connor uses religion as a common theme throughout her work. In this story, however, she mostly utilizes it to demonstrate that being religious does not automatically make you a good person. Mrs. Turpin mentions god several times throughout the story.
She cites having conversations with him often, including when she says, “If Jesus had said to her before he made her, “There’s only two places available for you. You can either be a negro or white- trash.. ” (454). This proves that Ruby Turpin believes that she was created by God and that her life is dictated by his decisions. She follows that by pleading, “Please, Jesus, please just let me wait until there’s another place available” (454). Her answer also demonstrates that she feels her life is controlled by her lord and savior because she would beg for it to be different.
Since the ible is known to make people more ethical, this character trait has a positive connotation that comes with it. By making the main character seem like a religious person, O’Connor forces her to audience to believe that she has strong morals. She assembled Mrs. Turpin’s credibility so she can later reveal that her actions do not match her ideals and therefore contrast them throughout the story. This commentary on religion drives home O’Connor’s message of what truly means to be a good person and sets up character development for the rest of the story.
With the combination of Mrs. Turpin’s religious views and her rude and selfish actions, readers can gather Ruby’s real disposition. Throughout the story, Mrs. Turpin says one thing but really means another. To others she might appear to be a polite and kind lady, but by giving the reader insight into her thoughts, O’Connor stresses a paradox in her personality. In the beginning of the story, for example, Ruby passes several harsh judgements on the fellow patients. She constantly sees herself at a higher standard than the other characters, especially a woman who she thinks is white-trash.
In one of their conversations, the oman mentions how she wouldn’t want to own hogs since they are messy, to which Mrs. Turpin thinks, “Cleaner by far than that child right there. poor nasty little thing” (456) and, “You wouldn’t have no hog to scoot down” (456). Although she does not say these things out loud, the reader can conclude that she is not being genuine with the woman. Instead what she actually says to the woman is that, “They’re cleaner than some children I’ve seen. Their feet never touch the ground” (455). This shows she does not say everything she thinks, but also serves as a piece of symbolism.
By saying that, “the hog’s feet never touch the ground,” O’Connor is discretely comparing them to Mrs. Turpin. Since she has vain and arrogant view of her status compared to others, she feels she is above them, much like the hogs and the ground. Another demonstration of Mrs. Turpin’s insincere actions can be seen when she talks about her relationship to the African American workers on her farm. While discussing how they run their farm, Ruby says, “I sure am tired of buttering up BLACK, but you got to love em if you want em to work for you” (456).
She then goes on to say how she always indly greets them and gives them water at the end of the day. Although her actions portray her to be a nice employer to the workers, her motives prove that it is all just a part of an act. The strikingly clear difference between her actions and thoughts lead O’Connor’s audience to logically infer that her behavior is illegitimate. Flannery also uses the emotions of her readers to convey her message. One way she does this is through Ruby Turpin’s cruel depictions of others. When she is first surveying the waiting room and all of the fellow patients, she sees the young girl reading her book.
Throughout the story she refers to her as the “ugly girl” as O’Connor illustrated, “The poor girl’s face was blue with acne and Mrs. Turpin thought how pitiful it was to have a face like that at that age” (453). The obvious judgement of a grown woman towards a young adolescent girl, makes the reader feel bad for the teen. By putting down others, even if it is just in her head, Mrs. Turpin comes off as bully, causing empathy for all of her victims. O’Connor strategically does this to teach her readers how hurtful passing unnecessary judgements can be. In the story Flannery O’Connor even writes, “.. ough she thought it was one thing to be ugly and another to act ugly” (455).
Although Mrs. Turpin thinks this about the teenage girl, this really serves as a symbol for the story’s overall theme of acting hypocritically to how you appear. Contrastingly, O? Connor also brings pity upon Mrs. Turpin at the end of the story as her character progresses. After being attacked by the teenage girl, it is not the physical abuse that hurts Ruby, but the words that she utters to her after. As the doctor is pulling the girl away, she orders, “Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart og” (460).
Ruby pines after a reason for this statement long after the attack, and even has a conversation with god about her worries. The audience feels bad for her because is truly clueless about what she did to deserve such treatment. She obviously does not feel remorse for her actions, until she has somewhat of an epiphany in the closing of story. O’Connor addresses her audience’s emotions in both of these instances to show them the repercussions of judging others before judging yourself. Flannery O’Connor uses several different methods to teach her eaders about the importance of being genuine and authentic to both yourself and those around you.
Her theme of hypocrisy can be distinctly seen through her juxtaposition of Mrs. Turpin’s ethical religious values and her hateful thoughts about others. These inner opinions about the world around her make the reader empathize with the people she looks down upon. In the end, however, even Mrs. Turpin gains sympathy as she has a revelation about the atrocity of her behavior. This elements all work together to guide the reader’s emotions and thoughts in hope to spread awareness on what it means to be a good person.