Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People" is a story told through the examination of the relationships between the four main characters. All of the characters have distinct feelings about the others, from misunderstanding to contempt. Both Joy-Hulga, the protagonist, and Manley Pointer, the antagonist, are multi-faceted characters. While all of the characters have different levels of complexity, Joy-Hulga and Manley Pointer are the deepest and the ones with the most obvious facades.
The first character we encounter is Mrs. Freeman. She is the wife of Mrs. Hopewell's tenant farmer. She is a very outspoken woman, and "she [can] never be brought to admit herself wrong on any point" (O'Connor 180). Mrs. Freeman is a gossip; she is nosy and she "ha[s] a special fondness for the details of secret infections, hidden deformities, assaults upon children" (O'Connor 183).
Mrs. Freeman wants to be an authority on everyone else's personal business. She is never shy of sharing the details of her daughters' lives with Mrs. Hopewell. I get the impression that she tells anyone that she meets the intimate details of the lives of Glynese, Carramae, Mrs. Hopewell, and Joy-Hulga. Being a poor tenant farmer's wife, her only weapon is her speech (Enjoiras 36). In order to compete with Mrs. Hopewell, she must be constantly on the look-out for ways to subtly one-up her in the course of their conversations. Asals describes their conversations as "hackneyed one-upmanship" (99). For example, the way they speak to each other one rnorning goes like this:
"Everybody is different," Mrs. Hopewell said.
"Yes, most people is," Mrs. Freeman said.
"It takes all kinds to make the world."
"I always said it did myself." (O'Connor 181 -82)
This is typical dialogue for them, riddled with clichés and trite expressions. Mrs. Freeman knows she cannot compete with Mrs. Hopewell monetarily, but she always gets the last word in their conversations.
Mrs. Freeman is a very domineering woman. In comparison to her husband, she is "the wheel behind the wheel" (O'Connor 181). Enjolras classifies Mrs. Freeman as "self- righteous" (36). Because she is not the landowner, she knows she must be careful in her contempt for Mrs. Hopewell's possessions. Although she is not as materially wealthy as Mrs. Hopewell, she takes great pride in her daughters. Mrs. Freeman revels in the fact that Glynese and Carramae have admirers, while Joy-Hulga, though twice their ages, has never had a relationship with a boy.
When Mrs. Hopewell is not in earshot, Mrs. Freeman addresses Joy as Hulga. Mrs. Freeman is intrigued by Joy-Hulga's wooden leg. It is one of the deformities with which she is so fascinated. Mitchell writes that "Mrs. Freeman is fascinated by the leg, but it is a 'secret infection,' spiritual and psychological in nature, of which the leg provides intimations" (2). 1 think Mrs. Freeman calls Joy by the name she chose because she...