Eye Symbolism from Revelation by Flannery O’Connor

Short stories often utilize different elements to attract and draw in a variety of readers. Symbolism is an element that will be carried throughout the entire story to hold it together and gradually round out the ending. In the short story, “The Tell-Tale” by Edgar Allan Poe, the old man’s eye is described as “pale blue, with a film over it” implying a lack of visual clarity. The eye in the story symbolizes the narrator, meaning that all the information we receive is coming through his distorted view (Lorcher).

O’Connor uses symbolism similarly in “Revelation.” An analysis of eyes as a symbol reveals an unfolding that leads Mrs. Turpin to her personal revelation.

Traditionally, the eyes are known as the “window to your soul” meaning that whatever lies within a person’s heart, whether it be light or darkness will show through their eyes. In the Bible (KJV), Matthew 6: 22-23 states, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness” (“Bible Gateway”). Mrs. Turpin’s visualizations begin immediately upon entering the doctor’s office. As she looks around “her little bright, black eyes took in all the patients” (179). O’Connor shows us right from the beginning that Mrs. Turpin is not as righteous as she thinks she is. She immediately cast her judgement on the people in the waiting room determining if they are agreeable or not.

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Deciding that there was one pleasant woman in the room, Mrs. Turpin strikes a conversation regarding the pathetic state of the others in the room. They exchanged a look indicating “they both understood that you had to have certain things before you could know certain things” (183). The pleasant woman’s daughter, Mary Grace, becomes more agitated over time listening to Mrs. Turpin speak.

It is obvious that Mary Grace does not share the same attitude regarding other people as Mrs. Turpin and her mother. Because of this, Mrs. Turpin had a hard time judging the ugly girl, Mary Grace, beyond her outward appearance. Mary Grace, described as having a “peculiar light” (182) in her eye, sees right through Mrs. Turpin’s hypocrisy and uses her smoldering gaze to condemn it. As Mrs. Turpin’s prejudice to the world continues to spew from her mouth, Mary Grace’s eyes were fixed like two drills on Mrs. Turpin” (185). There was no mistaking the urgency behind Mary Grace’s eyes, but Mrs. Turpin ignores the glare and blurts out a prayer despite all the hypocrisy she has displayed in the doctor’s office.

Upon hearing the Prayer, Mary Grace, who could no longer hold in her discontent with Mrs. Turpin, hurls the book across the room at Mrs. Turpin and “the book struck her directly over her left eye” (186). Mrs. Turpin, now with an impaired eye, was locked onto the girl on the floor who had just attacked her. Mary Grace’s eyes had stopped rolling and focused on Mrs. Turpin long enough for Mrs. Turpin to noticed her eyes “seemed much lighter blue than before, as if a door that had been tightly closed behind them was now open to admit light and air” (187).

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Eye Symbolism from Revelation by Flannery O’Connor. (2019, Dec 16). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/eye-symbolism-from-revelation-by-flannery-o-connor-best-essay/

Eye Symbolism from Revelation by Flannery O’Connor
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