In Flannery O'Connor's story titled "Revelation," how is external ugliness compared to internal ugliness?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Flannery O’Connor’s short story titled “Revelation,” internal and external ugliness are compared and contrasted in various ways.  Here are some examples:

  • Claud has an ugly sore on his leg, but this external ugliness is as nothing when compared with the internal ugliness of his wife.
  • Mrs. Turpin thinks that she is physically unattractive because she is too fat, when in reality it is her spiritual ugliness that is far more significant and blameworthy. Rather than being embarassed about the condition of her body, she should be ashamed of the state of her soul.
  • Mary Grace has ugly skin, but far more important is the ugly personality she reveals later in the story.
  • Mrs. Turpin is thankful that her skin is not ugly, like the skin of Mary Grace, but Mrs. Turpin reveals an inner ugliness that is far more important than Mary Grace’s lack of physical beauty.
  • The “white trash” characters in the doctor’s waiting room are not well dressed and are physically unappealing in other ways, but it is Mrs. Turpin who seems, in many respects, the ugliest character (spiritually) in the entire story.
  • At one point, Mrs. Turpin looks at Mary Grace, and O’Connor writes as follows:

Mrs. Turpin felt an awful pity for the girl, though she thought it was one thing to be ugly and another to act ugly.

Of course, it never occurs to Mrs. Turpin to regret or attempt to control her own ugly thoughts.

  • When the white trash woman remarks that she would like to get some “joo’ry” (that is, jewelry), Mrs. Turpin thinks that she ought instead to get “a wash rag and some soap.” In other words, Mrs. Turpin considers the white trash woman physically unclean, unfortunately ignoring her own spiritual uncleanliness.

This list could easily be extended, but by now the main point is clear: O’Connor contrasts superficial physical ugliness with the spiritual ugliness of the sin of pride, which is the source of perhaps all of the real and important ugliness in this story.


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team