Fiction is a powerful medium for conveying a message. Some believe that all fiction is allegorical; it serves a purpose by providing a reference to an issue rather than being an isolationist representation by an author. Fiction is perhaps one of the most powerful medium through which such a message can be conveyed through great subtlety and yet with all the power of simplicity, depth and understanding which is intrinsic to human nature. There are a number of writers as O’Connor and Malamud who have written about spiritual issues through fiction, particularly through revelations.
In Flannery’s, Revelation, the principal character Ruby Turpin denotes a smug and satisfied woman of the South. She lives in an illusory world basking in her own superiority in which those who are below her are fully understood, while those who are better in status prove to be a dilemma. Turpin’s duality is shaken by her encounter with Mary Grace who in an epileptic fit, calls her a, “wart hog” and ordains her to hell. (O’Connor, 1990). Malamud through the revelations of an Angel seeks to provide hope to Manischewitz, who after an initially comfortable existence has lost everything in life and is on the verge of despair.
Through the revelations of the Angel, the author seeks to provide him a greater understanding of the state of his life and provides hope for living. These fictional accounts clearly denote the themes of the authors, the power of change through revelations. O’Connor’s Mrs. Ruby Turpin The character of Mrs. Ruby Turpin in Flannery O’Connor’s Revelation denotes a woman who is fully satisfied with her position in life. She seems to be having everything from land, social status, house and servants. (O’Connor, 1990).
She feels she has been specially placed by God above other human beings. These feelings of superiority and some self doubts are expressed by Mrs. Turpin in her conversation with a stranger in the waiting room of a doctor’s clinic. The daughter of the stranger, Mary Grace is a rather brusque young woman who is quite upset with Mrs. Ruby Turpin’s smugness. The huge size of the lady and her overall demeanor in a small waiting room in the clinic is also perhaps intimidating. She thus explodes into a bout of epilepsy and attacks Mrs. Turpin.
It is through the revelations during Mary’s epileptic fits that the narrator attempts to explode the myth of smugness in Turpin. The feeling of superiority felt by Mrs. Turpin is denoted as a complex phenomenon wherein she feels superior to all non whites but she has not been able to classify herself in relation to those whites who are equal or superior in status to her. The author thus attempts to expose the dilemma felt by people of adjusting their relationship with people of equal or superior status. Mary Grace who has been hearing Mrs.
Turpin all this while is sick of this self congratulatory talk and throws the book she is reading at her and then clutches the lady by the neck having gone into an epileptic seizure. Through the encounter of the seizure, Mrs. Turpin seeks greater revelations about herself which otherwise would have been normally impossible. These moments of seizures are being depicted by the author as the way in which people come closer to God and can be indicated many truths that are other wise not evident. Through the characters of Mrs.
Turpin and Mary Grace, the author has also attempted to bring out through two extreme viewpoints, through total opposites the eternal truths of life. (Bernardo, Nd). The smug satisfaction with which Mrs. Turpin sees herself and her life situation is merely transcendental as indicated by Mary, it is the life of a hog, which is totally dominant in his own domain, particularly a wart hog, while it’s true position is perhaps in hell. Malmud’s Manischewitz and the Angel Manischewitz is a tailor, a man who was comfortable as his business was providing him sufficient returns.
The misfortune of a fire in his establishment led to a cycle of personal tragedies. Demanded compensation by his customers, the insurance amount soon disappeared. The loss of a son in war and the daughter in marriage to an irresponsible man, Manischewitz also suffered physical problems which prevented him from working long hours. The final blow came when his wife Leah, a loyal and strong partner to him throughout their happy years of married life, suffered an incurable disease of hardening of arteries and was in her last stages on the death bed.
These series of misfortunes did not shake Manischewitz’s faith in God and he felt that these happenings were an offense on the Almighty rather than an attack on his own goodness. He intensely prayed for relief. Then as he attempted to focus on an item in the newspaper, it appears that Manischewitz had a revelation in which he saw a Negro reading a newspaper in his living room. This was Alexander Levine or Angel Levine on of the principal characters in the story a Negro Jew, who offered to be an angel to the troubled Manischewitz.
However Manischewitz did not believe his credentials and thus Angel had to leave asking Manischewitz to contact him in Harlem if he needed any assistance. The next few days, Manischewitz and his wife both felt better and he could put in more work but on the fourth day they went back to their original state of pain and agony. Manischewitz again fell into a despondent mood and lamented his fate of pain and suffering. This second wave of despondency takes Manischewitz in search of the Angel into Harlem, where after great difficulty he locates Angel Levine in a cabaret, Bella’s.
And as he peeps inside, he sees Levine first sitting alone on a table playing solitaire and later dancing with fat Negro women very effusively. Manischewitz fled from the site only to return to the doom of his apartment where he found that Leah had sunk further and the doctor gave her just a couple of days to live. He again dreamt of Levine and then goes in search of him a second time into Harlem. However by now Bella’s had been converted into a synagogue. There he sees a group of four Negro reading the Holy Word. Their conversation reveals to Manischewitz how God expresses himself through the soul and the spirit.
Having heard them, Manischewitz sought their assistance to reach Angel in Bella’s. At Bella’s Manischewitz again saw Levine here he was amidst a crowd, making merry. Manischewitz seeped in sorrow, despite the hostility of the place and its surroundings seeks help from Levine since he is an Angel of God. This greatly embarrassed Levine sitting amidst such a merry making crowd. Changing into his old self, he returns with Manischewitz to his flat and indicates that all is well. Then through a locked door, he takes off, leaving just a feather behind.
As Manischewitz returns to his flat he finds Leah much better. Thus the revelations by the Angel have provided hope to Manischewitz. Comparison of Super natural revelation Mary Grace’s epileptic attack is designed as a revelation where she castigates the smugness of Ruby Turpin by exploding its myth and leading the latter to explore her entire world view afresh. (Paquet-Deyris, 2005). While the revelations of Mary Grace are not truly spiritual experiences, these could be considered so as the author is attempting to reveal truths to the protagonist through epileptic fits.
These fits are symbolic in biblical terms as St Paul regarded as one of the great saints was also an epileptic. Through this fictional work, O’Connor perhaps seeks to provide a message to all those who feel that their position in life is safe and secure that it or may not be so. There are many things to be achieved while one is primarily just like a wart hog. The author has subtly combined violence and a spiritual experience to explain the nuances of duality that have confronted people as Ruby Turpin something which is seen in many of O’Connor’s works. O’Connor, 1991). The epileptic fit by Mary Grace whose name itself is symbolic is designed to invoke communion with higher powers to shake Turpin out of her feeling of self satisfaction through a violent reaction towards the same. On the other hand Malamud has attempted to bring out through his revelations that anxious men seek desperate solutions through incarnations, and spiritual revelations which give them some succor and hope amidst life’s miseries. They seek God in angels.
From an initial cursing of God of deeming him to be unjust and unfair to others, Manischewitz starts feeling that God has been unjust towards him as well but his interacting with the angel places him on an even keel, bringing order to the whole issue of living through misery. The author through the character of Manischewitz and the angel wants to denote that there is hope even when everything seems to be lost. Abandoned by his children, with health not permitting fruitful employment and wife on the death bed, Manischewitz found some signs of optimism in the revelations by the angel.
Through them he could communicate with the unknown and seek to find solace even in hopeless situations. This is the theme that the author has denoted by giving the example of Manischewitz and the Angel. How supernatural revelation used to reveal themes of the Stories O’Connor who is a keen observer and commentator on truths in the South reveals the distinct cultural and communal overtones of the Whites and the non Whites in their speech and proclivities of language in different forms. (Bloom, 1986). This account also indicates the relevance of the intense communion of people in the South with Christian values.
Again through the revelation endowed on Mrs. Ruby Turpin through the fits of Mary Grace, her own reality is brought harshly into light by the author, her smugness, her feeling of inadequacies amidst self perpetuating conceit. The author also attempts to suggest that such people can only be broken out of their reverie of arrogance through a violent inter course with the unnatural. Mary Grace could not have been bold in her revelations unless she had been seized by epilepsy. Thus denoting the significance of revelations in real life.
Malamud’s writings are a powerful medium for depiction of various aspects of Jewish life in America in times when immigration of the community was at its peak. The typical loneliness of an immigrant especially when he is a Jew and old is explained by Malamud in his various writings very succinctly and the present work is no exception. Malamud is an eternal humanist, who attempts to place the nobility of the humble man at the centre of all his writings. An interaction between the Jewish and the African American is another of Malamud’s common theme which finds a reflection in his present work, Angel.
Malamud is frequently referred to as a man with a strong conscience and high morals who attempted to overcome the sorrow of loneliness, of immigration of the societal weak through his writings. In Angel Malamud has developed just such a theme by depicting the desperation of his main character, Manischewitz. Through the revelation he has attempted to provide some hope to the tailor, besieged with misfortunes. Thus both authors have very subtly utilized revelations to bring about opposite effects in their protagonists, hope in Manischewitz and overcoming hubris in Mrs Turpin.