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Essay/Term paper: A critical analysis of "revelation" by flannery o'connor

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Research Papers

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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
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 Mrs. Turpin in the face with the book, Mrs. Turpin is
conversing with another character and is not talking to the girl. In this
situation, a violent act by the girl is completely unpredictable. Also,
O'Connor uses an unhappy ending for this story. Mrs. Turpin, who is happy being
who she is, does not understand why the girl hated her. She does not think she
is a bad person, and she cannot comprehend why she is not liked. O'Connor ends
the story with Mrs. Turpin's questions unanswered which leaves her with a
sadness that is unsolvable. Through the use of social conflict, the element of
surprise, and an unhappy ending, a believable plot is created.
To further develop the theme, O'Connor uses consistent behavior, clear
motivation, and plausibility to create convincing characterization. The
protagonist, Mrs. Turpin, is convincing because she consistently curious and
involved in conversation. She is also consistently observant of the other
characters. Over the course of the story, Mrs. Turpin does not change;
therefore, she is a static character. O'Connor's characters are victimized and
are images of lower intelligence. Mrs. Turpin, however, does appear to be of
average intelligence. Her behavior in the story mirrors the Southern image
given to her by O'Connor. In the beginning of "Revelation," Mrs. Turpin is a
polite and outgoing individual, and these are characteristics that remain with
her. In addition to consistent behavior, Mrs. Turpin is convincing because she
is mainly motivated by her insecurity. Her motivation for appearing at the
doctor's office is clearly because her husband is injured. She also feels a
need to observe the other patients so she can draw conclusions as to why they
are there. Mrs. Turpin is a friendly and curious woman which explains her
continuous conversations with anyone who will listen. Even though she notices
the hatred given off by the teenage girl, she continues to act ignorant of it.
A possible motivation for her continued talking could be that she is deterring
from a confrontation. Another characteristic of Mrs. Turpin is her plausibility.
In this story, she is very plausible because her personality and
characteristics model those of a lifelike person. She is curious and observant
just like everyone else and she also enjoys a friendly conversation. O'Connor
makes Mrs. Turpin an average Southern citizen with an average Southern attitude.
With these characteristics given to her, Mrs. Turpin has become a plausible
protagonist in the story "Revelation." Through consistent behavior, clear
motivation, and plausibility, convincing characterization of the protagonist is
developed by O'Connor.
O'Connor's use of important literary devices such as symbolism and
foreshadowing allow her to reinforce the theme. Many think of O'Connor's
writing as humorous. In most of her stories, she uses a technique that is, for
the most part, comic. Humor is one way O'Connor masks what she is actually
trying to say. She was considered a tragic ironist which wasn't understood by
some people. O'Connor's stories also include much symbolism like in her story "
Revelation." In this story, there are several points of symbolism. The teenage
girl extremely dislikes Mrs. Turpin from the beginning of the story to the end
of the story. Her dislike grows throughout the story and then erupts like a
volcano. When her anger erupts, she throws a book at Mrs. Turpin. This book
symbolizes her hatred toward Mrs. Turpin. It symbolizes her hatred because in a
book, the plot develops and builds up over the course of the book. This is
exactly what her anger did toward Mrs. Turpin. The book is not the only
symbolism in "Revelation." In the doctor's office, there are several types of
people. These different types of people symbolize the different types of social
classes. For example, the white-trashy woman represents the lowest class with
uneducated intelligence, the well-dressed woman represents a class of higher
standards and intelligence along with an educated background, and Mrs. Turpin
represents a middle, working class with average intelligence and educated
background. Another literary device O'Connor uses is foreshadowing. The facial
expressions and actions of the girl show a conflict between her and Mrs. Turpin.
Specifically, the smirks given toward Mrs. Turpin and the grunts made when Mrs.
Turpin speaks were the rude gestures from the teenage girl. The increase of
these rude gestures foreshadows a confrontation between the two, but the actual
time of the confrontation is unclear. In conclusion, symbolism and
foreshadowing are two important literary devices used by O'Connor in "
After analyzing how the author's background, the plot, and the literary
devices contribute to the development of the theme of "Revelation", one
understands why this story rates high on the literary scale of value. "
Revelation" was a doorway for Flannery O'Connor. She used this doorway to
reveal her beliefs and disbeliefs about mankind and the mysteries that it
beholds. O'Connor was influenced many ways throughout her lifetime and it was
her writing that helped her deal with the problems she faced and the things she
believed in. "Revelation" was just one of her many stories that served as a
translator of her past. It was through this story that O'Connor revealed her
outlook on prejudice and the effects that some people had on the human race.
O'Connor achieved her purpose because she successfully portrayed her characters
in the manner most suitable to convince her readers. O'Connor needed to express
her concern and curiosity toward life and death, mainly death. She might have
also been looking for a way to cope with death by writing her stories. "
Revelation" was her way of suppressing her anger toward people of lower
standards. She suppressed her anger by writing what she thought about them;
therefore, releasing herself from the anger she felt. She was a Southern writer,
and from this writing habit she rec


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