How do Mrs. Turpin and Claude from Flannery O'Connor's "Revelation" compare and contrast with the Grandmother and The Misfit from "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?
Similarities and differences exist between many characters in Flannery O’Connor’s stories, including between Claude and Mrs. Turpin in “Revelation” and the grandmother and The Misfit in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” In the case of these two stories, however, the differences seem perhaps more significant than the similarities.
- Claude and The Misfit have very little in common. Claude is a good-natured, passive man who seems totally dominated by his overbearing wife. The Misfit, on the other hand, is a genuinely evil murderer who seems dominated by no one.
- The grandmother is manipulative, self-centered, and hypocritical, but she is a saint compared to Mrs. Turpin.
- The grandmother is afflicted by pride, as everyone is (at least from O’Connor’s perspective), but Mrs. Turpin is almost literally sick with pride, as her imaginary conversations with Jesus show – conversations in which she is obsessed with feelings of superiority.
- The grandmother uses the “n-word” casually, less because she is a vehement racist than because such language was typical of people of her age and background. Mrs. Turpin, however, seems far more consciously and deliberately racist than the grandmother.
- Mrs. Turpin is, quite literally, a more “hateful” person than the grandmother. The grandmother is, after all, quite capable of making loving gestures, as she shows at the very end of the story but as she also demonstrates earlier:
The grandmother offered to hold the baby and the children’s mother passed him over the front seat to her. She set him on her knee and bounced him and told him about things they were passing. She rolled her eyes and screwed up her mouth and stuck her leathery thin face into his smooth bland one. Occasionally he gave her a faraway smile.
Mrs. Turpin feels some genuine affection for Claude, but in general she spends much of the story merely finding fault with others.
- The grandmother’s life is transformed in an instant – in the instant when she reaches out and touches The Misfit in a gesture of love and compassion and is immediately shot as a result. Mrs. Turpin, however, has most of the story to contemplate the “revelation” she receives when Mary Grace literally throws the book at her (a book titled Human Development). By the end of the story, when Mrs. Turpin receives an even greater and more profound revelation, she is given the chance to act on this new insight because she is still alive. However, although the grandmother is physically dead by the end of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” her own revelation and her response to it may already have secured her a place in heaven, as O’Connor perhaps suggests when she writes that the grandmother's legs were “crossed under her like a child’s and her face [was] smiling up at the cloudless sky.”
- Interestingly, both women, at the ends of the two stories, are looking up into the sky, although the grandmother is physically dead, while Mrs. Turpin has the opportunity, thanks to her revelation, to live a richer, fuller, better life if she responds to her revelation as one hopes she will.