Revelation by Flannery O'Connor
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?"