Reading American literature is a great way to delve into the richness of American culture. Apart from racism shown in American literature, deeper shades of behavior, thinking, values, and beliefs of the American people is being reflected in the authors works. This literary essay will discuss Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People. In this short story, she hints on some Southern traditions and is heavily reliant on irony.
Flannery O’Connor is known to be one of the best writers of short stories in the 20th century. She grew up in a Catholic household. O’Connor has known the hardship one has to go through in life as she herself had been forced to persevere through tragedies. In particular, the death of her father at a young age due to Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. She was diagnosed with the same disease later in her life.
The stories O’Connor writes reflects her being a Southerner and a Catholic. The themes of Southern life and religion is observable in her works. Apart from that, she often enjoys and has an amazing talent for humor, irony, and paradox within a system of Christian belief in evil and redemption (Utah). She sometimes interweaves violence, racial relations and classification, racism, and class discrimination to portray some of the current cultural challenges the Unites States was currently encountering at the time. She tackles slightly controversial issues like this with humor and alienation.
In her first collection of short stories, A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories, is when she was first acknowledged as a master of short stories even though she had a couple stories published prior. It is also in this book that she published Good Country People. Her short story Good Country People is a good example of her work that perfectly shows her oeuvre as a writer. Here she effectively shows – as she has typically done in her other works – a character who has to experience a violent experience or shocking revelation to be exposed to their own pride and selfishness.
Good Country People
The short story a Good Country People shows a great deal of irony which is known to be one of O’Connor’s oeuvres. In a glance, O’Connor in a Good Country People imparts to her readers that there is more to a person than what is seen on the surface. It is a very old theme which still manages to spark intrigue, often in the way in which the story has been told by the author. In a Good Country People, O’Connor has proved that people are hardly what they seem to be – that there’s quite a lot of things to consider based on their appearance and approach alone.
A person’s inner workings cannot be judged by skimming the surface of the appearance and character they have presented you with. Just a single interaction is not enough to tell if a person is indeed who they say they are and if they are indeed as pure or the other way around as one has judged them to be. This story heavily emphasized the dangers of mistaking one’s presentation as one may be surprised by the cliché that is to be revealed. Apart from the short story’s ironic title, the characters’ names and along with their personalities are also dripping with O’Connor’s sarcasm. Her intention to expose one who thinks of himself superior to others only to be revealed as being simplistic in the end is quite confounding.
Apart from the storytelling and the creativity in the title, the most important element in this story of note are the characters and the names O’Connor chose. Some authors choose to choose random names that they find fitting for the story. But in O’Connor’s case, it seems that she had put a lot of thought into naming her characters for a Good Country People. From their names alone, there are certain expectations to be expected of them. Of course, as this is an O’Connor short story, that is not the case.
The choice of names for Good Country People should not simply be ignored as one is reading the story as they are indeed very well selected. To start with Mrs. Hopewell, her name has been used as a friendly joke by another character by saying “I hope you are well!” after she had introduced herself. Her name indicates a positive outlook on life and her hoping for the best at all times. In respect to her name, Mrs. Hopewell is a character who overuses cheerful clichés – which her daughter despises. She has trouble being rude to others and always makes an effort to be outwardly kind even if she is having trouble with doing so.
She constantly peppers her daughter with reminders that she should smile more as a smile can do so much for the look on her face. She reminds her daughter to be less rude. Aside from that, she thinks of herself highly and witty for knowing how to utilize the assets at her hand, particularly Mrs. Freeman. Lastly, she felt like she lost her joy when her daughter lost her leg as that changed her daughter’s attitude towards her.
Next, Mrs. Freeman, as her name indicates, is free in terms of being wrong and being a slave in the farm. This is because she refuses to admit that she is. She is charged by Mrs. Hopewell to deliver the previous day’s news to her every breakfast. Also, she echoes the emptiness of Mrs. Hopewell in terms of proper intellect, as all the exchange they can manage is gossip. But ironically, at the end of the story, she shows that she knows a bit more than Mrs. Hopewell does due to her remark towards the man they saw emerging from the woods.
Joy-Hulga is Mrs. Hopewell’s daughter who placed herself on a pedestal for she earned a PhD in philosophy. She thinks of herself as wise, knowledgeable, and experienced which she was proven, rather hardly, that she was indeed not. Joy-Hulga is an atheist whose faith relies on the belief of nothing. She has a heart disease and doctors have predicted that she may live up to the age of 45 if given the best of care.
Joy Hopewell was the name she was given at birth but she had it legally changed to Hulga because she thinks it sounds ugly. She changed her name to spite her mother. She states that "one of her major triumphs was that her mother had not been able to turn her dust into Joy, but the greater one was that she had been able to turn herself into Hulga.” She prides herself on her lack of attachment towards anything and is instead pleased with dealings that involves the mind. She defines herself in opposition to the beliefs that her mother imposes on her.
As her leg was shot of at the age of 10, Joy-Hulga has an artificial leg attached to her. This prosthetic leg holds different symbolisms for each of the characters. For her mother, Mrs. Hopewell, this is a constant reminder of her daughter’s loneliness, odd behavior, and hatred towards her. Joy-Hulga makes it a point to make horrible noises when walking to remind her mother of her inability to protect her as a child. For Hulga, even though she feels the leg makes her less of a person, she also believed that this is what made her special in the eyes of Manley Pointer. She even likened her artificial leg to that of a peacock’s feathers. As for Manley Pointer, Joy-Hulga’s leg is all but an object of fascination.
Manley Pointer, the Bible salesman, is the very person of Mrs. Hopewell’s clichéd beliefs. Also, it is quite ironic how the name he chose to present Mrs. Hopewell is referring to the male organ even though his cover is the act of trying to sell her Bibles. Towards the end of the story though, it is revealed through his actions that the choice of name is quite fitting. He made Joy-Hulga see that he is not the good country people and salt of the earth that Mrs. Hopewell thought that he is.
Manley Pointer successfully fooled both Mrs. Hopewell and Joy-Hulga but it seems that Joy-Hulga took the blow directly than her mother. She was forced to look at herself at a different perspective after she realized that she had been fooled by Manley Pointer, whom she thought she had seduced. Manley Pointer conned Joy-Hulga and took advantage of her lack of experience to lure her in a secluded space where he can acquire her artificial leg without causing much of a ruckus. Before leaving, Manley Pointer revealed to Joy-Hulga that he is indeed irreligious and that he was an existentialist who lives for the moment.
Good Country People’s character analysis alone is already a handful. However, the story itself requires attention, too. Good Country People is overloaded with ironic twists as discussed earlier. It depicts those who look down on others just because of their level of education, class, or simply just because they think of themselves superior to others. It is also about those whose actual identity is hidden under sheepskin. Furthermore, it touches on those who have faith and believe in God and those who do not.
Good Country People can be analyzed easier by discussing individual characters but analyzing the short story’s events reveals something beyond the characters and their personalities. Good Country People is made up of a world that is full of clichés and wolves hiding in sheepskin. There are many things that can be mentioned about the events of the story but the one most worth noting is the Bible salesman’s reveal of his true identity and intentions.
He revealed, rather prematurely, his anger and loss of interest in Hulga. From their first interaction alone, he has managed to capture Hulga’s attention when he mentioned that he too has a heart condition. Joy-Hulga felt for him, and immediately regretted it as her extended invitation for him to join them in dinner will require interaction. During dinner, Joy-Hulga was observing the boy subtly, but her stolen glances had not escaped the attention of her mother. Mrs. Hopewell had also noticed that the boy was acting as if he was trying to attract Joy-Hulga’s attention.
Then as Joy-Hulga accompanied Manley Pointer walk to the gate, the conversation they had is full of compliments directed at Hulga. Manley Pointer had hidden his intentions under the guise of a mere teenager being attracted to someone he found quite interesting. They have arranged a meeting to which Hulga excitedly showed up to. Hulga was working up her imaginations of a splendid picnic and even did her best to be attractive as she put Vapex on her collar in place of the perfume she did not have.
Hulga was puzzled as to why the boy even bothered to bring his valise containing the Bibles he was selling. To this Manley Pointer answered “you can never tell when you’ll need the word of God, Hulga,” in order to keep up his pretense of a Bible seller. In the barn, Hulga came to believe that she had successfully seduced the man. After Manley Pointer had tricked her into taking her leg off, she felt something was wrong.
It was then that Manley Pointer proved true to his name as he produced a flask of whiskey, a pack of cards with lewd photos, and a blue box containing contraceptives from inside one of the hollow Bibles. After he offered Hulga to drink from the flask, she began to wonder if he was indeed just one of the good country people and again asked for her artificial leg back. Manley Pointer refused to give it back and stored the leg in his valise.
Before he truly left her in the barn with her leg stashed, he confessed that he once used the same method to gain the glass eye of a woman. Mrs. Freeman’s gaze “touched” the boy before he disappeared under the hill. This implies that Mrs. Freeman was the only one who had known who and what the boy actually was. It turns out that she is INDEED never wrong and just chooses what to share with Mrs. Hopewell.
Apart from the Good Country People’s ironic title, the characters’ names along with their personalities are also dripping with O’Connor’s sarcasm. Her intention to expose one who thinks of himself superior to others only to be revealed as being simplistic in the end is oddly satisfying. Of course, she also drives her readers to reflect on themselves as to how they are treating others, if they are being deceived, or if they are the ones manipulating others.
O’Connor has a unique oeuvre that one wishes to attain if one dreams of being a writer. Students crafting literature reviews on her works will surely notice her distinct writing style. Even though it is easy to pick up on, untrained students’ eyes may need help discerning things like this. For that, professional writers from CustomEssayMeister may be of great help. Writers from CustomEssayMeister is sure to produce high quality custom essays that is able to impress even the strictest of teachers. Send in your order now we are glad to be of assistance.
“Flannery O’Connor: "Good Country People "(Pp. 100-15).” Utah State University, usu.instructure.com/courses/191228/pages/flannery-oconnor-good-country-people-pp-100-15?module_item_id=1211110. Accessed 14 Jan. 2021.
Hansen, Olivia Christine. “Flannery O’Connor’s ‘Good Country People’ - Olivia Christine Hansen.” Medium, 20 June 2018, medium.com/@oliviahansen_95910/flannery-oconnor-s-good-country-people-2fb8f033a2cd.
O’Connor, Flannery. “Good Country People.” A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1955.
Sustana, Catherine. “Analysis of Flannery O’Connor’s ‘Good Country People.’” ThoughtCo, 20 Apr. 2019, www.thoughtco.com/good-country-people-analysis-2990498.
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