Good Country People Character Analysis Essay, Research Paper
“Good Country People”
The short story, “Good Country People”, written by Flannery O’Connor, is a story that captivates one by usage of symbolism and theme. The story centers on the meaning of being a good person, in the sense of leading a Christian, pious life, worthy of salvation. O’Connor contrasts mindless chatter about “good country people” with questions about the true meaning of religious faith. There is also a class hierarchy formed that includes stereotypes about “good country people” and literal and symbolic meanings of events, objects, and characters. Through exclusive use of the third person narrator, O’Connor’s narrative style poises a tension between the realistic (characters in typical settings performing natural acts) and symbolic (where names, signs and other common objects represent larger issues). She also employs the technique of the epiphany, where a single moment of illumination “awakens” the character and reveals the deeper meanings of the text. O’Connor describes the story’s characters as distorted versions of humanity, and virtually none are sympathetic in the traditional nature of the hero or heroine with whom a reader might identify.
Hulga is the dual dimension main character that goes through a complete change throughout the story. She changes her name to Hulga, an “ugly” name, to reflect her feelings about her injured body and self, as the name is the opposite of her real name “Joy”, as is her personality. The significance of Joy remaining conscious even though terribly injured as a child when “her leg was blasted off” indicates that Joy seems to have rejected her own body by choosing a life of intelligence and of the mind. As with her missing limb, Hulga’s “weak heart” operates as a symbolic as well as literal affliction. Hulga closes her heart just as she rejects her body. Hulga’s mother, Mrs. Hopewell, convinced that Hulga would have “been better without a useless PhD. degree in philosophy”, has no comprehension of the one true meaning of life to her daughter: “Such is after all the strictly scientific approach to Nothing. We know it by wishing to know nothing of Nothing.” This reference is to nihilistic philosophy, which denies the existence of any basis for truth. It rejects belief in concepts such as religion and morality, and generally recognizes no authority.
Manley Pointer, a young misperceived country boy who sells bibles, is an illusion of appearance versus reality. Pointer is so heavily weighted down by his suitcase that he is lopsided and has to “brace himself to prevent collapsing”. This heaviness foreshadows a quality of falsehood that one carries that makes their mind, soul, and body heavy. Like Joy/Hulga, he is physically awkward, suggesting a lack of balance. His name, also a symbol, can be interpreted as humorous, sexual, and ironic as his name was an invention of his mind. Misplaced faith in appearances is central to the themes of this story. Appearance and deception conflict with reality and truth, as Pointer assures Mrs. Hopewell that he is like her and can exchange generalizations about “good country people” as readily as Mrs. Freeman. The biblical quotation, Matthew 10:30, foreshadows the story’s ironic ending. Mrs. Hopewell prides herself in not being taken for a fool, but this boy seemed “so sincere, so genuine and earnest.” In a way, both literally and ironically, Pointer is a missionary, though not as Mrs. Hopewell believes. Furthermore, the seduction of Glynese foreshadows Pointer’s seduction of Hulga. Pointer plays up to each person’s expectations. Everyone thinks he is young, innocent, and wholesome, leading to Hulga’s fantasy about seducing him and having to deal with his remorse. But, despite her advanced academic degree, Hulga’s misguided thinking is apparent in her fantasy that she will mercilessly seduce the boy, and in her “dabbing of Vapex” (a pungent and medicinal ointment) on her collar instead of perfume.