Essay, Research Paper: Revelation

Literature: Geoffrey Chaucer

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The story opens with Ruby Turpin entering a doctor's waiting room with her
husband Claud who has been kicked by a cow. As she and Claud wait, she takes
hard stock of the other people in the room. There was some white-trash, a
"red- headed youngish woman" who was not white-trash, just common, a
well-dressed, pleasant looking lady, and her daughter, an ill-mannered ugly girl
in Girl Scout shoes with heavy socks who was reading a book titled Human
Development. Listening to the Gospel song playing on the radio in the
background, Mrs. Turpin's "heart rose. [Jesus] had not made her a nigger or
white-trash or ugly! He had made her herself and given her a little of
everything. Jesus, thank you! she said. Thank you thank you thank you!" A
few moments later, agreeing with the pleasant lady in regard to her ugly
tempered daughter that "'It never hurt anyone to smile,'" Mrs. Turpin
notes, "If it's one thing I am, . . .it's grateful. When I think who all I
could have been beside myself and what all I got, a little of everything, and a
good disposition besides, I just feel like shouting, 'Thank you, Jesus, for
making everything the way it is!' . . .'Oh thank you, Jesus, Jesus, thank you!'
she cried aloud." Suddenly the book Human Development "struck her
directly over her left eye." Nurse, doctor, and mother scramble to subdue
the ugly girl. Transfixed by the girl's eyes focused on her, Mrs. Turpin asks
"'What you got to say to me?'" waiting, as O'Connor says "as for
a revelation." "Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart
hog" [the girl] whispered." Haunted by this command, Ruby Turpin
spends the rest of the day in puzzlement and concentration. Finally, while
hosing down the hog pen that evening she whispers to God in a fierce voice,
"What do you send me a message like that for?" "How am I a hog
and me both? How am I saved and from hell too?" If students can understand
the answer to this question, they can understand the medieval notion of Original
Sin. Struggling against the recognition that she shares in the common legacy of
humanity, Ruby Turpin wants to know how she is like a hog, and why with plenty
of white-trash around the message had to come to her. Challenging God to go on
and call her a wart hog from hell, to put the top rung on the bottom, she yells
out "There'll still be a top and a bottom!" Shaking with fury, she
demands of God, "Who do you think you are?" In a final vision,
something akin to the great medieval leveling of death and damnation and
salvation forces itself upon her. With an ironic humor reminiscent of Chaucer
and beatific purification echoing Dante, O'Connor writes A visionary lights
settled in her eyes. She saw the streak [of the setting sun] as a vast swinging
bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a
horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of
white-trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers
in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and
leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of
people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had
always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She
leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with
great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common
sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by
their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.
In painful clarity, Ruby Turpin recognizes, as one critic put it, "the
inadequacy of her respectability and the shallowness of her values" (Pepin
26). The vision shows her how--considered by God no more worthy than
white-trash, or niggers, or freaks--she can be both a wart hog before the
judgment seat of God and saved, too. If "Revelation" can help students
understand the nature of Original Sin and the inscrutable nature of God's
wisdom, the "A Good Man is Hard to Find" can certainly help them see
both the frailty of human will and the kindred nature of human existence. Like
Ruby Turpin, the grandmother of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" considers
herself a lady. Dressing for her road trip to Florida with her son Bailey, his
wife, and their three children, she carries her white cotton gloves and pins
"a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet to her neckline";
as her interior monologue tells us, "In case of an accident anyone seeing
her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady." And the
thought is grimly prophetic. Badgered into traveling down a rutted dirt road
that the grandmother mistakenly thinks will lead to an old plantation, they do
have an accident.
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