Compare and contrast the grandmother in O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and Ruby Turpin in O'Connor's "Revelation."

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In comparing the main characters in Flannery O'Connor's short stories "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "Revelation," I am struck first as to how the women are similar.

In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," the Grandmother talks a lot. She never stops ranting at her son Bailey or passing her opinion on to others, whether they are interested or not. Ruby Turpin in "Revelation" also talks a great deal. In the doctor's office, she has quite a bit to say about African Americans, and she is not charitable. In this story, she finds another woman with ideas similar to her own, and they engage in extensive conversation. Bailey's mom simply talks at people.

Both women see themselves as Christians. Flannery O'Connor's stories often deal with religious themes, strongly present in both stories, and here again are similarities between the two women. Neither woman is able to understand religion in her own life:

[Flannery'] characters are often too selfish or unobservant to see the acts of grace in everyday experience...[and she] believed that people needed to be coerced into noticing God's presence in the modern world.

It is not until the Grandmother is faced with death at the hands of the Misfit that she takes a careful look at her faith—her connection with the world. Ruby is the same way: it is not until Mary Grace becomes violent with her, saying terrible things to her, that Ruby begins to question her faith. In this way, both women are similar. O'Connor treats them the same as she recognizes that her characters make mistakes, but that they can still come to salvation.

All are sinners in O'Connor's fiction, but all are capable of being saved.

Perhaps the greatest differences come in how the women deal with eye-opening experiences that show them what they are really like. The Grandmother connects with another character for the first time when she connects with the Misfit. 

"Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" She reached out and touched him on the shoulder.

With no real time for reflection, the Grandmother does have the chance to understand the connection between people, as God had intended. "Revelation" is different in a number of substantial ways. However, again O'Connor believes that God can save people—Ruby believes that the disturbed Mary Grace has a message for her. In this story, Mary Grace throws a book at Ruby and tries to strangle her. When Ruby gets home, she has time to consider the terrible situation and what Mary Grace said:

Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hog.

Ruby believes that she is a Christian, even though she is a terrible snob and bigot. She is proud that she give to others who are less fortunate than she, but she is also disconnected from the world. Ruby's situation is greatly different because she has the opportunity to reflect on Mary Grace's words afterwards. When she returns home, she also sees a vision. Ruby has been certain that landowners and upper middle class are far superior to blacks and "white trash." In her vision, however, she sees those who she believed were below her are at the front of the line on a ladder that leads them heaven-ward. She struggles with this vision: it is the truth? By the end of the story, one is left to wonder if she will take the message to heart and be kinder to others or if she will remain unchanged. She may now understand the Scripture:

So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Matthew 20:16)

Read the study guide:
A Good Man Is Hard to Find

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