A Critical Analysis of "Revelation" by Flannery O\'Connor


Flannery O\'Connor\'s background influenced her to write the short story “
Revelation.” One important influence on the story is her Southern upbringing.
During her lifetime, Southerners were very prejudiced towards people of other
races and lifestyles. They believed that people who were less fortunate were
inferior to them; therefore, people were labeled as different things and placed
into different social classes. The South provided O\'Connor with the images she
needed for her characters. Similarly, this can easily be identified in her
short story “Revelation.” The characters in the story are identified by
physical characteristics and some are even identified with racial terms. The
main character in the story is actually prejudiced and makes many statements
using racial jargon. For example, Mrs. Turpin, the main character, refers to
the higher class woman as “well-dressed and pleasant”. She also labels the
teenage girl as “ugly” and the poor woman as “white-trashy”. When Mrs. Turpin
converse with her black workers, she often uses the word “nigger” in her
thoughts. These characteristics she gives her characters definitely reveals the
Southern lifestyle which the author, Flannery O\'Connor, was a part of. In
addition to her Southern upbringing, another influence on the story is Flannery
O\'Connor\'s illness. She battled with the lupus disease which has caused her to
use a degree of violence and anger to make her stories somewhat unhappy. The
illness caused a sadness inside of Flannery O\'Connor, and that inner sadness
flowed from her body to her paper through her pen. Although she was sick,
O\'Connor still felt proud to be who she was. By comparison, Mrs. Turpin in “
Revelation” has a good disposition about herself. She is far from perfect, yet
she is happy to be who she is. Perhaps the most important influence on the
story is religion. In the words of Robert McCown, O\'Connor\'s writing was mainly
generated by a most powerful Christianity which was fed by her Catholic
background (McCown, 256). O\'Connor was not only influenced by her own Catholic
heritage but by others as well. Like the other writers from France and England,
she is curious about the actuality of sin and the effect that it has on the
presence of mankind. Her stories and every characteristic about them was
Flannery O\'Connor\'s way of showing reality and qualities that are determiners of
fate and destiny. No matter which path her stories took her readers, they
mostly ended up finding social truth. This background, together with a
believable plot, convincing characterization, and important literary devices
enables Flannery O\'Connor in “Revelation” to develop the theme that sometimes
people must look farther than the surface in order to understand the actions of
others.
To develop this theme, O\'Connor creates a believable plot by using a
social conflict, the element of surprise, and an unhappy ending. The main
social conflict that appears in this story is not determined until a good
portion of the story has passed. There are, however, incidents that build up to
the actual conflict. The story “Revelation” has a major and a minor social
conflict. The minor conflict is between Mrs. Turpin and a white-trash woman.
This conflict is born because Mrs. Turpin believes she is in a higher class than
the white-trash woman. The white-trash woman is unintelligent and uneducated,
and Mrs. Turpin is repulsed when she speaks and interrupts her conversation
with someone else. The major social conflict is between Mrs. Turpin and a
teenage girl across from her. This conflict is built up over the course of the
story through rude gestures and facial expressions given by the teenage girl.
For instance, Mrs. Turpin makes a comment about a clock. The girl looks at the
clock and smirks which was followed by another smirk toward Mrs. Turpin. Mrs.
Turpin also acknowledges a look the girl gives her as the “ugliest face she has
ever seen anyone make” (O\'Connor, 394). It was like the girl has known and
disliked Mrs. Turpin all her life. Another element of plot which reinforces the
theme of “Revelation”, is the element of surprise which actually brings the main
conflict out in the open. O\'Connor brings the conflict out well because the
incidents that built up to the actual conflict do not give away what is going to
happen. The action around the conflict is completely surprising and
unpredictable. We are aware the girl dislikes Mrs. Turpin because of her
previous actions. The girl never does anything other than give dirty looks;
therefore, we are not expecting any type of physical violence between them.
When the girl hits