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Traditionally, a revelation denotes revealing a previously concealed fact or secret. American short story writer Flannery O’Connor utilizes a sense of dramatic revelation throughout her fiction to tackle controversial topics. For instance, O’Connor’s short story, “Good Country People,” explores a mother and daughter’s warped form of redemption at the hands of a drifter.
“Good Country People” opens with a description of the protagonist Joy-Hulga, who has one wooden leg and attempts to compensate through intellectual superiority. In contrast, Joy-Hulga's mother, Mrs. Hopewell is continually optimistic and accepts life in its simplicities. However, both women's naive beliefs are overthrown in a moment of revelation provided by a simple-minded country boy.
Manley Pointer enters the narrative in the guise of a Bible salesman, going door to door selling God’s word. Mrs. Hopewell, ever optimistic, invites the boy into her home, proclaiming that, “Good country people are the salt of the Earth! Besides, we all have different ways of doing, it takes all kinds to make the world go ‘round. That’s life!” From his initial entrance, Manley Pointer illustrates his ability to see and reveal truth; when Mrs. Hopewell attempts to discharge his efforts, he quickly responds by playing to her weakness, which is the attempt to find everyone faultless.
While Joy-Hulga places herself above her mother on an intellectual level, she too falls victim to the Bible salesman. When Manley Pointer invites Joy-Hulga on a picnic, she readily accepts, imagining herself seducing the innocent young boy using her superior intellect. However, the roles are reversed when Manley Pointer deceives Joy-Hulga and she becomes the victim. He tricks Joy-Hulga into proclaiming her love for him, and asks that she show him where the wooden leg joins and remove it. Joy-Hulga, who was “as sensitive about the artificial leg as a peacock about his tail” at first refuses, but eventually gives in to the boy’s seeming innocence, believing that he is too unseasoned and naïve to be harmful.
After the boy literally strips Joy-Hulga of the ability to act, he begins to reveal his true nature, therefore beginning the shift toward a shocking ending, a revelation, to the narrative. He takes out his Bible and opens it to reveal a secret compartment filled with condoms, pornographic cards, and alcohol. At this sight, Joy-Hulga’s proclaims in a pleading tone, “Aren’t you just good country people? When Joy-Hulga attempts to call him a typical Christian hypocrite, he angrily replies, “I may sell Bibles but I know which end is up and I wasn’t born yesterday and I know where I’m going!” With that, Manley Pointer places her wooden leg in his valise, along with a woman’s glass eye and other deformed artifacts and disappears.
Manley Pointer knows Joy-Hulga and Mrs. Hopewell the moment he encounters them. While the women think that they see and know beyond what is present, they are ignorant. By victimizing these women, Manley Pointer delivers a warped form of revelation and redemption. Thus, O’Connor’s work acts as a revelation that might initially shock her audience and create a forced need for reflection.
In O'Connor's stories, the main characters usually do not perceive things accurately, but in the course of the narrative, truths are revealed to them that change their perceptions. These truths often come in a moment of epiphany, or a moment of grace.
- "Good Country People"
Hulga is intelligent and educated, yet she finds herself believing in nothing because she feels she has removed the blindfolders of her life. She boasts to Manley Pointer,
"In my economy,...I'm saved and you are damned,but I told you I didn't believe in God."
However, after she is duped by Pointer, Hulga loses her "economy," her faith in Nothing, after her life of illusion has been revealed to her as Manley Pointer introduces her to the knowledge of evil and, thus Hulga finds her way back to good and evil.
- "A Good Man is Hard to Find"
The sanctimonious grandmother, who has witnessed the deaths of her son and his family, has truth revealed to her at this moment of violence. In her epiphany, the grandmother realizes that like the Misfit, she, too, is a sinner,
"Why, you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!"
Thus, her redemption, like that of Hulga, comes through the act of violence perpetuated by evil.
Mary Grace, an obese girl with severe acne, becomes an odd messenger of Flannery O'Connor's signature violent grace when the girl becomes so upset with Mrs. Turpin that she hurls her textbook at the woman and tells her she is a "warthog from hell."
Thus, the violence of Mary Grace's actions and her cruel words return Mrs. Turpin to reality as the truth of what the girl has said to her is revealed as she "absorb[s] some abysmal life-giving knowledge" while gazing into the pig parlor at the hogs on their farm, seeing a vision of all those she has criticized entering heaven while people like her march behind the others,
Yet she could see by their shocked and latered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.
In all three stories, the main characters experience revelations of the truths of themselves through acts of violence, acts that provide redemption.
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