In "Revelation" by Flannery O'Connor, why is it appropriate that the two major settings  are a doctor's waiting room and a "pig parlor"?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Revelation” has two main settings: a doctor’s waiting room and a “pig parlor.” These two settings are appropriate for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • A doctor’s waiting room is a perfect setting in which a wide variety of people can believably be brought together and can interact. It is therefore entirely credible that the broad range of social types who appear in the waiting room in O’Connor’s story would appear there.
  • A doctor’s waiting room, as the name implies, is a place where people mainly have to wait. They therefore have an opportunity to observe each other and to engage in conversation. Once again, therefore, O’Connor has chosen an ideal setting in which two of the main “actions” of this story – observation and conversation – can occur.
  • Most significantly, a doctor’s waiting room brings together people who are, in various ways, sick or ill.  However, O’Connor’s main concern (in this story as in most of her fiction) is not with physical sickness or illness but rather with spiritual sickness or illness.  The setting gives the various characters (especially Mrs. Turpin and Mary Grace) plenty of opportunities to expose the sickness of their souls. Mrs. Turpin physically appears quite healthy, but this is not true spiritually.
  • By the same token, O’Connor implies that the true physician whose care Mrs. Turpin needs is not the doctor who owns the waiting room but, instead, the physician whom O’Connor thought all humans needed most – Jesus Christ.
  • Partly for this latter reason, the “pig parlor” is a perfectly appropriate setting for the final section of the story.  Mrs. Turpin is proud of her hogs and of their modern, sophisticated habitat. In fact, in some ways she shows more concern for her hogs than for some of her fellow human beings.  Her pride in her “pig parlor” is typical of her pride in general. Pride, indeed, is the source of her true disease in every sense of that word.
  • Because Mrs. Turpin is so proud, it is fitting that her “revelation” comes as she is standing outside the pig parlor. Rather than her “revelation” or epiphany occurring in some location more suited to her sense of her own importance (such as a church), it occurs where one might least expect it to occur.
  • Another reason, of course, that the pig-parlor is an appropriate setting is that Mary Grace has earlier called Mrs. Turpin a warthog from hell.
  • Finally, the hogs are described in such a way that they seem to be behaving more as God intends his creatures to behave than Mrs. Turpin has been behaving for most of the story:

They had settled all in one corner around the old sow who was grunting softly. A red glow suffused them. They appeared to pant with a secret life.

The "old sow" is in some ways a more admirable creature than Mrs. Turpin, the alleged wart-hog from hell.



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