Flannery O’Connor's "Revelation" and the Power of Religion

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Flannery O’Connor believed in the power of religion to give new purpose to life. She saw the fall of the old world, felt the force and presence of God, and her allegorical fictions often portray characters who discover themselves transforming to the Catholic mind. Though her literature does not preach, she uses subtle, thematic undertones and it is apparent that as her characters struggle through violence and pain, divine grace is thrown at them. In her story “Revelation,” the protagonist, Mrs. Turpin, acts sanctimoniously, but ironically the virtue that gives her eminence is what brings about her downfall. Mrs. Turpin’s veneer of so called good behavior fails to fill the void that would bring her to heaven. Grace hits her with force and their illusions, causing a traumatic collapse exposing the emptiness of her philosophy. As Flannery O’Connor said, “In Good Fiction, certain of the details will tend to accumulate meaning from the action of the story itself, and when this happens they become symbolic in the way they work.” (487). The significance is not in the plot or the actual events, but rather the meaning is between the lines. In Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Revelation,” the dynamic character of Mrs. Turpin serves as an ideal lens to examine humanity; the transformation from a woman of hypocrisy to a woman of grace is crucial to understanding the theme. Mrs. Turpin thinks very highly of herself, is satisfied with her place in the world and classifies all others into societal castes based on a comparison to herself; she proclaims herself to be most respectable type of person. As she intuitively targets others and categorizes people, class distinctions occupy her mind. The story opens with a waiting room scene where and O’... ... middle of paper ... ...aith and suggests rational thought processes of the time were no match to moral thought beginning in love and compassion. Whether or not this story occurred is unimportant, as O’Brien said, “happeningness is irrelevant.” The important factor is that a lesson is displayed. O’Connor, through her fiction, exposes significant flaws in humanity, using the waiting room as a mirror for who we are. Mrs. Turpin is a mimesis of mankind; just as all good literature should do, our downfalls are displayed in order to teach and improve. As Flannery O’Connor said, “In Good Fiction, certain of the details will tend to accumulate meaning from the action of the story itself, and when this happens they become symbolic in the way they work.” (487) Though her story is more happeningness than true, it was strategically written in order to reveal God’s grace to all believers in the end.
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