Basing your opinion upon their experiences in the respective stories, do you think Ruby and Hulga/Joy will become better people? Why or why not? ["Revelation" and "Good Country People"]

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Ruby Turpin and Joy/Hulga experience important revelations about other people and how they themselves are perceived by others. In both cases, it seems more like a rude awakening than anything else, although Ruby is also vouchsafed a kind of divine vision subsequently (discussed below).

Joy, like Ruby, initially prides herself on her superiority to others. Ruby fancies herself a cut above many people socially, and is forever denigrating the social classes  she thinks are well below her: blacks and white trash. Joy regards herself as being above everyone else intellectually. She declares to Manley Pointer that she has no illusions whatsoever about anything: ‘I’m one of these people who see through to nothing.’ However, she is completely deluded  by Pointer, who misleads her into thinking that he is religious and romantically inclined towards her, whereas he is just a callous conman who tricks her out of her false leg and leaves her stranded in a barn, after mocking her stupidity. Thus the knowledge is brought home to her, in a most disagreeable manner, that other people aren’t as stupid or simple as she has always thought, and that they can get the better of her. However, there is no hint that she really takes this information to heart and that it will humble her and make her behave better towards others in future, instead of dismissing them all as being intellectually inferior to herself.

Ruby Turpin is shocked beyond measure when, having listened to her constant put-downs of other people, a strange girl insults her in a doctor’s waiting room, labeling her 'a warthog from hell’. Although she is completely stunned, the incident does force her to think a bit deeper about her own status and that of others. Indeed, she has a vision of all sorts of people going to heaven, even the blacks, white trash and lunatics, as well as her own stolid, respectable kind, who in fact are right at the back of the procession. Many critics have taken this to mean that she now realizes that she is not so privileged above others after all, and that everyone is capable of attaining divine grace and salvation. However, it's not really implied that she’s going to start behaving much better towards others in future as a result.

As with so many of O’Connor’s characters, neither Ruby nor Joy seem to have much capacity for self-awareness, as a rule. Although their experiences as re-told in their respective stories certainly do shake them up, there’s no guarantee that these experiences will have a truly profound and lasting effect.

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