Hog Development


Hog Development Essay, Research Paper

Flannery O’Connor has an amazing ability to convey deep meaning through the folly of the characters in her stories. The lessons learned from O’Connor’s flawed main characters are the driving force of her thought provoking literature. Mrs. Turpin is no exception. In “Revelation”, there are two main settings: The waiting room and the pig parlor. The events that take place in these settings are crucial to understanding the underlying meaning of the story. In “Revelation”, Flannery O’Connor uses symbolism in the waiting room and the pig parlor to reveal to Mrs. Turpin, and the reader, that all people are equal in the eyes of the Lord. The story begins in a doctor’s waiting room. Claud and Ruby Turpin went to the doctor to get Claud’s leg examined. Upon entrance, Mrs. Turpin “sized up the seating situation” (1). Mrs. Turpin is quick to notice the shoes of the other people in the waiting room. She notices that the well-to-do woman has nice shoes, the ugly girl is wearing ugly shoes and socks, and the white trash woman has on bedroom slippers. O’Connor uses an editorial omniscience point of view that allows the reader to know exactly what Mrs. Turpin is thinking. It is through this point of view that O’Connor reveals the most about Mrs. Turpin. Mrs. Turpin is quick to judge the people in the waiting room according to their shoes and tailors her conversation accordingly. She begins to speak to the well-dressed woman whose ugly daughter is reading a book called Human Development. The conversation between the two women reveals something very important about Mrs. Turpin’s frame of mind. Mrs. Turpin has a mentally constructed social hierarchy, which she uses to gauge the quality of a person. This phenomenon can also be referred to as solipsistic. Ruby Turpin is a solipsistic thinker. This means that she measures all the people she encounters through the frame of her own ego. Mrs. Turpin even “occupied herself at night naming the classes of people” (24). Mrs. Turpin and the well-dressed woman are at the top of this hierarchy. That is why Mrs. Turpin interacts with her the most. While Mrs. Turpin was raving to the well-dressed woman about how her “hogs are not dirty” and “don’t stink” (44), and how she was “tired of buttering up niggers” (48), when the ugly girl who was reading Human Development kept scowling at her. The ugly girl’s name is Mary Grace. ########Mary Grace suddenly throws the book at Mrs. Turpin and begins to choke her. While wrestling with the girl, “Mrs. Turpin’s vision suddenly reversed itself and she saw everything large instead of small” (102). After the fiasco had calmed a little, Mary Grace whispered to Mrs. Turpin, “Go back to hell where you came from you old wart hog” (107). The waiting room fiasco is rich with symbolism and can be understood on many different levels. Flannery O’Connor reveals her religious background in every one of her short stories. This story is no exception. Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, and Grace is God’s gift to humans to pardon their sinful nature. In this way, Mary Grace is a gift, or prophet, to Mrs. Turpin. Mary Grace throws a book at Mrs. Turpin. “Throwing the book” at someone is legal jargon for charging someone with every infraction of the law. This action shows that Mrs. Turpin is guilty of carrying an innate, socially stratified view of society, and Mary Grace lets her know this by her drastic actions and harsh name-calling. During this debacle, O’Connor states that Mrs. Turpin’s vision had reversed itself. This shows that Mary Grace was effective in her extreme, indirect way of criticizing Mrs. Turpin’s social hierarchy and conceited Christian way. Another way that the reader can be sure that Mary Grace’s attempt was effective is the fact that “Mrs. Turpin felt entirely empty except for her heart which swung from side to side as if it were agitated in a great empty drum of flesh” (103).

Fortunately the story does not end here. Mrs. Turpin and her husband Claud return home from the doctor’s office and retire to their bedroom. Ruby Turpin laid down and “The instant she was flat on her back, the image of the razor-backed hog with warts on its face and horns coming out behind its ears snorted into her head” (128). Claud left to go pick up slaves to help him with his farm work. When Claud came back Mrs. Turpin “rose and thrust her feet in her brown oxfords, which she did not bother to lace” (143), and went to fetch water for the slaves. Notice Mrs. Turpin no longer cares what shoes she wears. This is yet another indication that Mary Grace’s comments had reached their target. Mrs. Turpin then carried out her duty of bring water to the black folks who had helped Claud with his work. She explained the waiting room fiasco to the “help” hoping that they would make her feel better. The black workers wasted no time in buttering up Mrs. Turpin with comments like, “I’ll kill her” and “You the sweetest white lady I know” (168). Realizing that these comments were empty and fake Mrs. Turpin growled, “You [can] never say anything intelligent to a nigger” (170). Mrs. Turpin was now absolutely livid and made her way towards the pig parlor looking like “a woman going single-handed, weaponless, into battle” (171). Once Mrs. Turpin had reached the pig parlor, she grabbed the hose away from Claud and sent him away. It is in the pig parlor where Mrs. Turpin begins her fierce conversation with God. She shouted questions like, “What do you send a message like that for” and “How am I a hog and me both? How am I saved and from hell too” (178)? These questions were in reference to the accusations of Mary Grace. Mrs. Turpin’s entire world was flipped upside down and she was struggling to make sense of it. In her fury, Mrs. Turpin was relentlessly soaking the hogs with the hose that she had ripped from Claud. Again, this setting is rich with symbolism and reveals much to the reader. Hogs in this story represent human’s sinful nature. Mrs. Turpin is desperately trying to cleanse these hogs, but the fact is no matter how clean the hogs are, they are still hogs. This fact really disturbs Mrs. Turpin. In the same way, no matter how good Mrs. Turpin’s disposition is, and no matter how well she treats the people that she deems inferior, she is still an ugly, sinful human. ]Now a connection can be made between the comments that the white trash woman was making in the waiting room and the present situation. Back in the waiting room, the white trash woman had said, “One thang I don’t want [is] [h]ogs. Nasty stinking things, a-gruntin and a-rootin all over the place” (43). Mrs. Turpin was a-gruntin and a-rootin all over the waiting room by spewing out her bigoted comments, and passing silent judgments on the lower class people in the room. Mrs. Turpin cannot make this connection. She feels that because she has a good disposition and is friendly to the people that she chooses to associate with that she is in God’s favor. She pleads her case with God by saying, “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 the church” (180). She does not see that these works alone are not enough. In a final

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