Good Country People Essay

2077 words - 9 pages

Throughout American history, people have had an image of how country folks should present themselves. For example, many people see them as being pious, strict, and honest. Flannery O’Connor, author of “Good Country People,” approaches the images societies have formed of country people from a different and eye-opening perspective. Her story goes against what society thinks of these lowly people. Although O’Connor may come across as being critical of others in her short story “Good Country People," she uses symbolism, character development, and irony, to get her point across, which is, there are hypocritical people in every part of society, whether it is in the city or in the country.
In her short story, O’Connor uses physical deformities to symbolize the character’s emptiness and a need for something greater such as spiritual fulfillment. Joy, also known as Hulga, is one of the characters in this narrative that has many disabilities. She has a prosthetic leg, a weak heart, and poor eyesight. Her false leg symbolizes pride. O’Connor wrote, “When Hulga stumped into the kitchen in the morning (she could walk without making the awful noise bus she made it-Mrs. Hopewell was certain-because it was ugly sounding); she glanced at them and did not speak” (447). This line suggests that Hulga deliberately makes the noise and does not try to hide her difference. According to Elizabeth Hubbard, a critic, there is more to the false leg than just pride. She wrote, “The leg’s wooden artificiality symbolizes the lack of life or vitality in that in which Hulga places her belief, the purely mechanistic way in which she understands sexuality, the body, and the human” (Hubbard 62). Hulga has never known the love of a man because she constantly looks down upon them and thinks of them as being stupid. She plans on seducing Manly to control him, lead him astray, and to make a young guy who is supposedly a Christian stumble. Later on in the anecdote, the readers realize that Manly is also playing her, meaning he is taking advantage of her disabilities. The next health problem Hulga has is a weak heart.
Does Hulga physically have a heart condition or does the heart symbolize something else? According to Kate Oliver, another analyst, feeble heart is symbolic for Hulga’s problems. She writes, “Her frail heart symbolizes her emotional detachment-an inability to love anyone of anything” (Oliver 234). As the story progresses, the readers learn more and more about her character. O’Connor writes the following, … and the large hulking Joy, whose constant outrage had obliterated every expression from her face, would stare just a little to the side of her, eyes icy blue, with the look of someone who has achieved blindness by an act of will and means to keep it (446). The only emotion she shows is anger, pride, and self-pity. The “look of blindness” could also symbolize the “emotional detachment” she has towards those around her and towards nature. She is blinded by her pride,...

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