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


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