These two Flannery O’Connor stories share several features. Most notably, each has an unpleasant female protagonist who has a rigid view of social status that includes a highly flawed self-image. Each is placed in a situation through which she might gain insight, but she fails to do so and retains a narrow view of her own supposedly-elevated place in the world. In one case, this failure results only in a nightmare, but in the other, it causes several death.
The grandmother in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” seems obsessed with “goodness,” which she equates with “blood,” a concept that includes ancestry and socialization. Because she characterizes the Misfit as a “good man,” she cannot understand why his behavior will not match her preconception. He is not interested in her narrow worldview, and her expressions of condescending superiority probably just fuel his homicidal urges.
Ruby Turpin in “Revelation” obsessively categorizes people according to their appearance and her knowledge of their social status. Her observations of Mary Grace, a young woman in the doctor’s waiting room, privilege her looks over her intellect: Ruby sees having acne as more important than attending a Seven Sisters college. O’Connor seems to imply that Mary Grace can read Ruby’s thoughts; she both insults and physically attacks her, verbally sending her “back to Hell.” Back home, Ruby cannot process the day’s events rationally but only through her unconscious. She inverts the student’s curse in dreaming of lining up for Heaven, where those she deems inferior take the lead—not only Mary Grace, but African Americans and “white trash.” Rather than adjust her vision of humanity to be more egalitarian, she remains convinced that she and those she considers like her are “first” on earth and that she is going to Heaven.