Religious Themes & Symbolism in O'Connor's Revelation

Topics: Revelation

Flannery O’Connor was born in 1925 in Savannah, Georgia. The themes that O’Connor often used in her work are religious, probably influenced by her Catholic parents. Even though her parents influence her in Catholicism, her devotion to Catholicism is likely stronger than her parents’ devotion to it. Furthermore, she is the only child of her parents. She had her education in parochial grammar school and high school. Her father died of lupus before her fortieth birthday.

O’Connor is known an as American great writer, “Today, O’Connor who died in 1964 at the age of 39, is generally acknowledged as one of the foremost American fiction writers of the 20th century.

(Teachout 55). The revelation was written by Flannery O’Connor and published in 1965 in her short story collection, Everything That Rises Must Converge. After her last book was published, she died. Revelation is the story about a woman who blindly judges people based on their appearances and receives her revelation with an evil message from a person who she first thinks of as merely an ugly young girl.

She believed that the message comes from God and she cannot accept it. O’Connor used characters and symbols to signify the superiority of the main character, Mrs. Turpin as well as the concept of the story.

At the beginning of the story Revelation, by Flannery O’Connor, the main character develops slowly with a little description of by comparison of her body size and her surroundings.

“Mrs. Turpin, who was very large, made it look even smaller by her presence” (O’Connor 381).

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Readers can identify Mrs. Turpin as the main character of the story by the way the story is narrated based on her perspective. Anyone that caught in her view got judged as she believes that was she supertothan anyone else in the world. Besides that, understanding the narrator’s view based on Mrs. Turpin’s perspective can help readers to understand how the characdevelopselop into a person full of arrogance and prejudice toward other people. She simply judges people in the waiting room by their appearances, “She could tell by the way they sat-kind of vacant and white trashy as if they would sit there until Doomsday if nobody called and told them to get up” (O’Connor). Her actions entirely portray the characteristics of a judgmental person, annoying and malicious. Throughout the story, we can identify that she thinks and believes herself as a good Christian and a pious human being. We can see it at the end of the story when she blamed God because he send her an evil, disgusting message that she thinks that she as a Church-going Christian shouldn’t receive. She questions God, “Why me?” and continue asking her more question, “It’s no trash around here, black or white, that I haven’t given to. And break my back to the bone every day working. And do for church” (O’Connor 393).

The other character that is significant throughout the story is Marisrace, who is of college student age and is described as a fat girl from Mrs. Turpin’s view. Readers could understand how she is being classified as an unfortunate girl by the description of her face that it was covered with acne and surly. In addition, usesshe received such an ugly face at a young age, “The poor girl’s face was blue with acne and Mrs. Turpin thought how pitiful it was to have a face like that age” (O’Connor 382). At the end of the story, this character developed into a rude girl. She bravely whispers to Mrs. Turpin who is older than her by using filthy words, “Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hag” (O’Connor 389).to

In the story Revelation, O’Connor also uses symbolism to emphasize Mrs. Turpin’s feeling of superiority over others. The name of the story “Revelation” can be read as to reveal or unveil. The author uses symbolism through the names of the characters to reveal their true identities. The author mostly used Latin words for the names of the characters in the story (Pepin 26). The first name of the main character, Ruby, comes from the word “rub” which brings the meaning of “redness” which can be translated to “disgraceful” or “shameful”. Mrs. Turpin’s attitude in the story causes someone to feel ashamed of her judgmental behavior.

Moreover, Turpin which is the last name of Mrs. Turpin comes from the word “turpitude” which can be read as very evil and ugly. Mrs. Turpin’s name itself reflects her ugly judgment of those she is dealing with. The worst part is when she can even judge people in the doctor’s waiting room based on their shoes, which reflects a judgmental attitude. “Without appearing to, Mrs. Turpin always noticed people’s feet. The well-dressed lady had on red and gray suede shoes to match her dress” (O’Connor 383). It seems to like observing and judging people from head to toe was one of her hobbies.

Besides that, the author uses Mary Grace as the name of the young girl who bravely whispered the evil message to Mrs. Turpin. “Mary” is the name of Jesus’ mother, the  Virgin Mary, who is a saint. The saint contrast with what Mrs. Turpin sees: a fat, young, acne-covered girl.

Ironically, the concept of Grace fits in the body of a young girl who has a complete lack of grace from Mrs. Turpin’s viewpoint and as presented by the girl’s appearance. A rude action in which Mary Grace threw the book Human Development that she was reading right at Mrs. Turpin and humiliate her shows that Mary Grace has a lack of grace. “The book struck her directly over her left eye. It struck almost at the same instant she realized the girl was about to hurl it” (O’Connor 389). Besides that, the girl’s name, Mary Grace is connected to the kind of religious prayer, “Hail Mary, full of grace” (Pepin 26).

Furthermore, the author uses the doctor’s waiting room that has an ashtray with cigarette butts in it and a used bandage that have blood on it, signifying Mrs. Turpin’s dirty habit of judging people. In addition, the dirty pig parlor symbolizes her dirty and filthy soul, which keeps classifying people in her imaginary social strata and being racist. “Sometimes, Mrs. Turpin occupied herself at night, naming the classes of people” (O’Connor 383). The author is likely to emphasize Mrs. Turpin’s judgmental habit by using symbols. Ironically, in the book entitled Human Development which is the book that Mary Grace read, readers can generally picture the contents of the book which are about all human beings are from the same creature that was created from the fertilization of sperm and ovum. Thus, we should be treated equally without discrimination. It is contrasted with Mrs. Turpin’s idea of comparing people in her imaginary social strata based on people’s appearances.

In a conclusion, Flannery O’Connor wrote “Revelation: using a third-person limited omniscient narrator who delivers the story entirely from Mrs. Turpin’s perspective. She used the characters’ names and the objects in the story to signify the concepts of the story. Mrs. Turpin saw a view of people heading to heaven, and she saw herself walking behind the people she claims to be “white trash,” “niggers” and freak people. She realized that God’s grace applies to all human beings and is free superitohan human virtues. O’Connor often used religious themes, which is significant in this story; the gospel music as the background sound in the doctor’s waiting room and the revelation that Mrs. Turpin received at the end of the story. O’Connor successfully wrote this story with her bewildered pious woman style. Character development and symbols help to signify the concept of the story and the superiority of Mrs. Turpin.

Works Cited

  1. Teachout, Terry. “Believing In FlanneO’Connornor.” Commentary 127.3 (2009): 55-58 Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Aug. 2015.
  2. O’Connor, Flannery. “Revelation.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed.
  3. Michael Meyer, 10th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. 381-395. Print.
  4. Pepin, Ronald E. “Latin Names and Images of Ugliness in Flannery O’Connor’s ‘Revelation’.” A 6.1 (1993): 25-27. Academic Search Premier. Web. 26 July 2015.

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Religious Themes & Symbolism in O'Connor's Revelation. (2022, Jun 28). Retrieved from

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