Eyes as a Symbol in "Revelation"

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Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation” is a short story centered around racism and pride with several recurring images. The most important image pattern, however, is eyes. Even the title shows a relation to eyes, since a revelation is considered a ‘vision’. Mrs. Turpin’s eyes are the source of her arrogance and prejudice. Many other characters, including Mary Grace are defined by their eyes. Eyes are the window to the soul, and are how the reader comes to understand the characters better.

When Mrs. Turpin enters the doctor’s waiting room, she immediately scans the room to look not only for the available seats, but to evaluate the other patients. She classifies the patients by their appearances, and places them below her in class according to her categories of social status. The first to meet her eyes, is a well-dressed woman. Mrs. Turpin is pleased with her companionship because they seem to have the same opinion of the small child taking up two seats. Mrs. Turpin then scoffs at the “leathery old woman in [the] cotton print dress” (393), because she is poor, and related to the other “white-trashy” (394) patients. Her judgments are based solely on what she can see, and her first impressions of the remaining patients are not kind.

An interesting thought by Mrs. Turpin draws even more attention to her eyes. She states that she has “not a wrinkle in her face except around her eyes from laughing too much” (393). Mrs. Turpin is outwardly good-natured to everyone, including those she disdains, but her eyes show the wear and tear of false pleasantries. She has a vision problem – shortsightedness and prejudice. However, she is quite skilled at getting her emotions across with a single glance, as is shown with the well-dressed woman and Mary Grace. The white-trash mother’s eyes are also described in detail. One of her eyes has a cast, more commonly known as a squint. The mother has a true vision problem, both literally and metaphorically – she is just as deluded and...
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