O'Connor, Flannery

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Dec-31-1996


Mrs. Turpin and her husband enter their doctor's waiting room and immediately Mrs. Turpin begins to assess the other patients present: a pleasant, well-dressed lady; a "white trash" woman and her mother and son; a fat adolescent with acne. She and the pleasant woman strike up a conversation about the importance of refinement and good disposition. They discuss, for example, how you have to be nice to "niggers" to get them to do any work. The "white trash" woman counterpoints with comments that indicate her ignorance and poor breeding.

Suddenly, the fat adolescent throws her book at Mrs. Turpin and tries to strangle her. The girl is subdued by the nurse and her mother and the doctor sends her by ambulance to the hospital, but before being taken away, she whispers to Mrs. Turpin, "Go back to hell where you belong, you old wart hog." At home, Mrs. Turpin confronts God. Was this experience a message from Him? She demands of God, "Who do you think you are?" As the sun sets, a "visionary light" comes over her and she has a vision in which the "niggers" and "white trash" march on the bridge to heaven ahead of good, respectable people like her.


An ugly, nasty young woman is the mechanism through which the truth is revealed to Mrs. Turpin. The strange young woman is, in fact, reminiscent of an Old Testament prophet with her piercing eyes and her rude, uncompromising message. In the end, when Mrs. Turpin scolds God and demands that he justify himself to her, he answers with a vision in which, literally, the last (in Mrs. Turpin's scheme of reality) become first. This powerful scene also has biblical overtones: the scene in which Job, the righteous man who never did anything wrong, demands that Yahweh explain why he has allowed Job to suffer, and Yahweh speaks.

Primary Source

Everything That Rises Must Converge


Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Place Published

New York