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Scripture’s Reversal: Recognizing the Scapegoat with René Girard and Flannery ... - page 7 / 8





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There was no doubt in her mind that the girl did know her, knew her in some intense and personal way, beyond time and place and condition. “What you got to say to me?” she asked hoarsely and held her breath, waiting, as for a revelation. The girl raised her head. Her gaze locked with Mrs. Turpin’s. “Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hog,” she whispered. 15

Keeping a close eye on the girl, the white-trash woman says, “I thank Gawd I ain’t a lunatic.”16

After the doctor attends to her, Mrs. Turpin and Claud go home and into the bedroom to rest. However, Mrs. Turpin cannot rest; she cannot put the episode behind her, so she goes back outside in order to have it out with Jesus.

“What do you send me a message like that for?”….“How am I a hog and me both? How am I saved and from hell too?”….“There was plenty of trash there. It didn’t have to be me. If you like trash better, go get yourself some trash then,” she railed. “You could have made me trash. Or a nigger. If trash is what you wanted why didn’t you make me trash?”….“Or you could have made me a nigger. It’s too late for me to be a nigger,” she said with deep sarcasm, “but I could act like one. Lay down in the middle of the road and stop traffic. Roll on the ground.”17

Jesus does not answer her. After a little while, Mrs. Turpin finally calms down enough to reflect. Looking into the sky, she sees a purple streak. She has a vision, a vision not unlike Peter’s in Acts 10 in which he saw all things as clean.

She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away. 18

When I first read “Revelation,” I dismissed Ruby Turpin as an unenlightened racist. “Nobody has those attitudes any longer,” I thought. After all, O’Connor completed the story a long time ago in 1963, just before she died. Then something happened to me. In a flash of recognition, I saw how the story involved me in it. This occurred when, while reading it the second time I heard my own voice, deep inside, whisper tentatively, “Thank you, Jesus, thank you that I am not like Mrs. Turpin.” I felt my heart rise within me, and my voice grew louder, gaining conviction, “Thank you, Lord Jesus, that I do not place people in categories like she did, that bigoted woman. Thank you, Lord Jesus, that I am more enlightened and self-aware than she was. I’m not like her, you know. I could act in that judgmental way though, but I’m not really like her. You could have made me a racist,


Ibid., 416.


Ibid., 417.


Ibid., 422.


Ibid., 423.


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