Flannery O'Connor wrote stories with strong religious themes—about grace and redemption; in light of this what is O'Connor's theme in "The Artificial Nigger" and "Comforts of Home"?

1 Answer | Add Yours

booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Flannery O'Connor is well known for stories that have religious themes in them, and it is no different in "Revelation."

Ruby and Claud Turpin go to the doctor's office to have Claud's leg treated. Ruby strikes up a conversation with another woman. Ruby's internal dialogue shows the reader that she believes herself to be a religious woman, blessed by God. In truth, she is a bigot and a hypocrite. Her conversation with "the well-dressed woman" shows her hateful nature.

Ruby suffers from "spiritual blindness." She believes she is saved, but has no concept that she is far from what Jesus (who she thanks for her salvation) would have her be. She generalizes about those who measure up (landowners like her and her husband), and those who do not: blacks and "white trash." She is condescending and lacks concern for her fellow man; she says she helps others less fortunate than herself, but her lack of love and connection with those socially beneath her, belie any good she thinks she is doing. Self-centered and superior (in her own mind), she is totally unprepared for Mary Grace's assault on her person (throwing her book at Ruby's head and trying to strangle her); and she is devastated when Mary Grace tells her:

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

This gives Ruby a great deal to think about. And this is, of course, O'Connor's intent:

[O'Connor's] 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.

There is no question that Mary Grace's violent outburst gives Ruby the shock of her life: has she been wrong about her religious identity? Was God sending her a message through Mary Grace? Why has he allowed this to happen? At one point she hollers at the sky:

Who do you think you are?

As Ruby stands outside hosing down the hogs as the night falls, she does a great deal of soul-searching. Then she has a vision: there is a line of people climbing on a bridge to heaven. However, rather than being at the front of the line as she would expect—because she believes she is such a fine Christian—those socially beneath her go first: the blacks and the white trash. (This alludes to the Bible verse found in Matthew 20:16—So the last will be first, and the first will be last.)
A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw a...swinging bridge extending upward...Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white trash...And bringing up the end...was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those...like herself...[who] had always had a little of everything...
Those of good standing, as Ruby sees herself and those like her, move forward while "their virtues were being burned away." If she can believe her vision, the very aspects of herself that she believes are virtues, are not virtues at all. She really does not care for others as she should. She sets herself above others. Now she is shocked and thoughtful as her eyes are "fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead." The author does not say whether Ruby makes a change, but...
All are sinners in O'Connor's fiction, but all are capable of being saved.
There is a good chance that she will pay attention to the vision.
 
One theme is that a person must not only say who he is in words, but also speak more clearly by his actions. Another might be: it's never too late to change.
Sources:

We’ve answered 318,946 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question