Dan deRoulet is my instructor in this series on how to read fiction. We are looking at Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation.” He’s asked me two questions — which parables do the exposition and crisis evoke, and where was Mrs. Turpin when she got her epiphany?
Your questions are good ones, Dan. They lead me to ask things I would not have asked of this short story.
The first parable that came to mind for me, in light of how the parable ends — with the right people going down into hell and the wrong people going up into heaven — was the parable of the workers in the vineyard, or the parable of the marriage guests because both of those parables are shocking instances of reversal of expectations. I can see those themes in Flannery O’Connor’s short story.
I will also admit that what came to mind for me when I read this story was Matt 23, Jesus’ intense excoriation of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes.
And, esp since you brought this up Dan — I hadn’t thought of it all, by connecting parable to where Mrs. Turpin is for the epiphany of her own soul, I went to the parable of the prodigal son for he also was in a pig sty when he realized the state of his own soul.
And, now that you bring me to see this Dan, I have to admit the scene in which she washes off pigs, with a little frustration, and comments on who she is — well, this is classic O’Connor “irony” — isn’t it? Mrs. Turpin needs the cleaning; she’s been called a “wart hog”; and here we finding her cleaning hogs; wondering how she could be called a wart hog. The irony is so thick I felt pity on the woman. “How am I saved and from hell too?” Wow, that’s potent stuff out of the woman. “… blindly pointing the stream of water in and out of the eye of the old sow whose outraged squeal she did not hear.” Strong stuff again.
Question: What does she mean by “Put that bottom rail on top. There’s still be a top and bottom!” Is this O’Connor anticipating eternal reversal? Or is this just Mrs. Turpin saying … what?
“She gripped the rail of the hog pen …” again. Wow.