The story on Good Country People depicts a vivid imagery about the prejudiced judgments of people and their significance in the society. Joy considers herself a special person apart from the social setting in which she believes that she is different from everybody else and thus deserving better experience because of her high education level. However, her weak emotional potency limits this lofty ideal. Hulga’s mother Mrs. Freeman is critical of the education her daughter attained, she considers it responsible for her diminished faith in God and ethics. Joy Hulga character is intriguing; she is full of controversial incidents in her drama-filled life. Moreover, Joy is a charming and attractive girl who defines a new edge in fashion according to her perception about herself and other people. Because of her leg, she considers herself undeserving of the name Joy, and changes it to a more appropriate sounding Hulga. The purpose of this paper is to review the characters, themes, and feelings depicted by Good Country People by O’Connor.
Manly Pointer marks the turnaround in Hulga’s life. The self-proclaimed bible salesman, who has claims to have relinquished a college education following the heartrending discovery of a fatal heart condition wins the attention of Hulga through a moving, albeit fabricated story of his own humble life. All this turns out to be an elaborate lie to get Hulga into a position of vulnerability. Manly Pointer is the complete opposite of what he preaches, he is a con who harbors and is capable of raping a helpless crippled woman such as Hulga. Hulga realizes that she is fearfully mistaken, even with her high level of education of Manly Pointer’s true nature. She is prone to the same kind of misconceptions that other country folk bear susceptibility. Joy constructs her identity through the assumption that the people in her neighborhood were good; contrary, Hulga rejects her county after Manly Pointer took advantage of her personality. The moment she gives herself away to Manly Pointer, and lets him take off her artificial leg, the action awakens her to her profound vulnerability that had been veiled by education status.
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Hulga moves from showing a passing appreciation for God to actively defending atheist standpoints the moment she is with Manly Pointer. Though her mother had encountered the possible and deeply worrying perspective in her daughter’s literature, her mannerisms did not do much to confirm the stand. When she finally realizes who Manly Pointer truly is, she lets her opinion on the issue come to light. The bible salesman who has successfully deceived Hulga through her social naivety and vulnerability to popular misconceptions is the epitome of worldly waywardness. He represents the self-serving, dishonest world that is ready to expose weakness within the protagonist. Manly Pointer has had several victims, and Joy Hulga is one of the preys he has in his evil grasp.
The book makes liberal use of symbolism, from the way characters are named to the situations in the book’s setting. Manly pointer represents the devil, and his briefcase Hell. His portrayal is that of a collector of souls. Though Hulga has a high level of education, she is as poor judge of character as the uneducated country folk, and is prone to the same misconceptions as they are. She is a subject of many misconceived observations for her mother herself. Her mother considers her education to be the single most important reason why she has little faith in God. Characters such as Manly Pointer, however, challenge the validity of this point of view. Despite his lack of education, has no faith in God, and only uses the name when trying to trap innocent good people into his conniving evil plans. The level of education Hulga has attained has made her life more complicated, not easier. She boasts that if not for her handicap, suffered during her hunting expedition, she would be living far away from the southern country folk, who cannot relate to her point of view.