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Symbolism In Good Country Peop Essay Research

Symbolism In Good Country Peop Essay, Research Paper


Symbolism plays a major role in Flannery O Connor s story, Good Country People.

Multiple objects that are presented in the story appear initially to be merely props, but

the reader later discovers these props to actually be extremely important and

necessary to the dynamics of the story. These props, or objects, symbolically

represent the personalities of the characters who possess and/or use them.

One such object in the story is the wooden leg of Hulga. When the wooden leg is

introduced into the story, the reader is compelled to feel sympathy and pity for Hulga

due to the circumstances necessitating the wooden leg. It is mentioned briefly, with

little description, that the leg was literally blown off in a hunting accident. This

sounds terrible, and is tragic, but what is even more tragic is the way Hulga uses the

wooden leg as a tool for manipulating situations to suit her. An example of this is

when she stomps through the house, deliberately making a loud ugly-sounding

noise. Hulga s physical disability, and use of the wooden leg, symbolizes her as a

whole. More specifically, the leg is strong yet weak at the same time, as Hulga

appears strong to others, but in reality is vulnerable. The leg is strong, not only

because of the obvious fact- it is made from wood, but because it provides Hulga with

support, or in other words, a crutch. At the same time, however, it is weak because if

removed, it would simply be nothing more than a piece of wood. And, in fact, the

wooden leg does eventually prove its weakness in the story. In one second, the

wooden leg goes from being a leg, a fundamental means of support, to nothing except

a piece of wood. At the same moment the leg is removed, Hulga herself goes from

being a strong personality, to a cripple begging for mercy.

Other objects in the story that have symbolic meaning are the eggs that Hulga cooks

for breakfast. It is stated in the story that Hulga puts her eggs on the stove to boil, and

then she stands over them with her arms crossed waiting for the eggs to cook. When

the eggs are placed into the water, they are fragile, but as they cook, they become

hard. This process greatly reflects upon Hulga. Hulga uses the time when the eggs

are cooking to rebuild her wall. This wall is the barrier that she puts between herself

and others, mainly her mother, Mrs. Hopewell. Hulga is, in a sense, making herself

hard like the eggs.

Mrs. Hopewell s name is incredibly symbolic of her character s personality. The

compound word, Hopewell, if broken down, literally means what it says- hope well.

With everything that Mrs. Hopewell s daughter, Hulga, has done in the past and does

in the story, Mrs. Hopewell still has hope that things might change for the best. She

has dealt with her daughter s negativity for years, but has yet to become negative

herself. Mrs. Hopewell is strongly opinionated and set in her ways, but nonetheless,

she does try to look for the good in people and situations.

Another object in the story that has a symbolic meaning is the bible that the boy,

Manley Pointer the bible salesman, carries with him throughout the story. The reader

is led to believe that the bible is simply a regular bible and that Manley Pointer is

simply a good country boy. But this is not the case, as is revealed late in the story.

The image of the bible is obviously related with anything pure, good, nice, or kind,

and many people tend to generalize that anyone holding, reading, or speaking about a

bible must be of the same characteristics. This is what happens to the characters of

Mrs. Hopewell and Hulga in the story. They wrongfully assume, as could the reader,

that Manley Pointer is a reflection of the bibles he is selling. More specifically it is

Hulga that makes the tragic assumption that Manley Pointer is an easy target because

of the connection she makes to the bibles. Hulga believes the bible salesman to be a

na ve youth, possibly blinded by his faith to the evil- the evil being Hulga s plan to

seduce him to get at her mother- sneaking up on him. Hulga is caught off guard

however, when Manley Pointer opens his bible to reveal a flask of whiskey among

other things. This turn of events surprises Hulga, because when the bible is opened,

not only are the contents of the bible exposed, but so is the true character of Manley

Pointer the bible salesman. Therefore, the bible with the items, items related with sin

and evil, hidden inside, is overwhelming symbolic of the image and true character of

Manley Pointer.

The ladder that Hulga and Manley Pointer climb to reach the loft is symbolic of the

climax of the story itself. To the unsuspecting reader, it is expected that atop the

ladder awaits the place in which Hulga will take advantage of the bible salesman.

That, however, is not what happens. Climbing the ladder takes Hulga to a place from

which she cannot return, without the wooden leg of course. Just as having bad

intentions and doing bad deeds will bring someone to a point in life or a place from

which it is not easy to return. The ladder symbolizes the climax of the story and the

journey of Hulga.

It is also somewhat symbolic that Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman were in the

garden at the end of the story digging up onions when they spotted Manley Pointer

exiting the barn. The women, at that time, had no knowledge that the bible salesman

was not the good country boy they believed him to be, but just the fact that they were

digging up onions when he came out of the barn is subtly funny. Mrs. Hopewell and

Mrs. Freeman were digging up stinky onions and Hulga had just been had by a stinky


Flannery O Connor s use of symbolism in this story is ingenious. She artfully

injects objects into the story that makes it almost exciting for the reader to discover

one such object. Some of the things Flannery O Connor uses are obvious, but others

require close scrutiny and possibly several readings to find. Some appear to have

great story value, and others appear only for entertainment of the reader. This

masterful use of symbolism is one characteristic of Flannery O Connor that makes her

a magnificent writer.