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‘Good country people’ is a short story written by O’Connor. The protagonist is a Ph. D graduate in philosophy known as Joy but later changes her name without her mother’s consent to Hulga; which means very ugly. She lost her leg when she was a child and lives with her mother, Mrs. Hopewell, because of her artificial leg and heart problem. She is a non-believer and very rebellious to her mother; that is the reason why she gives herself the ugliest name to hurt her. Mrs. Freeman is employed in their home as a house help. Joy has no respect for anybody and she does not believe in anything. Her artificial leg makes her feel more special than anyone else. But her superiority complex is later let down when the Bible seller, Manly Pointer, manages to seduce her and runs away with her artificial leg. The paragraphs below discuss the characterization in the story, surprises in the characterization as well as what the writer wants the reader to understand about these characters.
Joy is brilliant and very intelligent. But, it is so ironical that she does not view her world with a broader perspective since she does not understand other people’s real characters. Despite her intelligence and age, it is very surprising that she has childish behaviors since she wears a skirt meant for a six year old girl and ,”a yellow sweat shirt with a faded cowboy on a horse embossed on it” (Giannone 5). Her mother feels that it is too idiotic and immature for her to wear such clothes at her age. The writer wants the reader to understand that academic knowledge is very different from common sense (Orvell 20). According to her mother, “Joy is brilliant but does not have a grain of sense” (Giannone 8). Joy is also an atheist since she cannot allow her mother to keep a bible in the house.
She is cynical about everyone because she feels so superior and sees the country people as simple including her own mother. Surprisingly, she is too rude to her mother and disrespects her totally. She says to her, “woman! Do you ever look inside? Do you ever look inside and see what you are not? God! We are not our own right!” (Giannone 9). This makes her mother regret why she had to take her back to school for the Ph.D. Joy also undermines people such as the Bible seller; Manly Pointer. In spite of her arrogance and pride, it is shocking that, she allows Pointer to kiss her; a simple poor man who is not educated. Later, the man manages to run away with her artificial leg; the most valuable thing in her body because it makes her unique. This brings down her superior attitude. “Her narcissism allows Manley to make her remove her leg. He grabs it and runs off with it, but not before letting her know that he has played her for the fool” (Orvell 42). O’Connor wants the reader to understand that too much pride leads to person’s failure or downfall.
Mrs. Hopewell is very kind. In spite of her daughter’s rudeness and ugly remarks, she treats her like a child due to her broken leg and heart problem. For instance, when her mother says to her; “if you can’t come pleasantly, I don’t want you at all” (Orvell 52). The girl replies in a very rude manner by use of actions and words saying, “If you want me, here I am- LIKE I AM” (Orvell 52). This statement shows disrespect but Mrs. Hopewell understands the negative attitude with her daughter and excuses her because of her leg and heart condition. Furthermore, Mrs. Hopewell is very understanding because even after learning about Mrs Freeman’s nosy behavior, she says that people are different and nothing is perfect. The writer wants the reader to understand that the world is made up of different kinds of people in terms of behaviors and characters, so, the best thing is to understand them well and act accordingly (Orvell 59).
Mrs. Freeman is nosy. According to the story, “she’s got to be into everything. If she don’t get there before the dust settles, you can bet she is dead. She’ll want to know all your business” (Orvell 130). The most surprising thing is that Mrs. Hopewell was aware of Mrs. Freeman’s character but she still employed her. She takes advantage of her character by giving her all the responsibilities in the house. “Since she was the type who had to be into everything, then, Mrs. Hopewell had decided, she would not only let her to be into everything, she would see to it that she was into everything” (Orvell 123). In spite of her character, Mrs. Freeman is very hard working. The writer wants the reader to understand that people are different and no one is perfect. This means that people should always be positive and avoid being pessimistic.
Manly Pointer is characterized as a Christian. He sells bibles and encourages people to buy at least one for their family. When he visits Mrs. Hopewell and finds out that she does not have a bible in the house, he tells her, “for a Christian, the word of God ought to be in every room in the house” (Giannone 11). He continues, “I don’t want to go to college because I want to devote my life to Christian service. I got this heart condition and may not live long” (Giannone 11). Moreover, Pointer is characterized as a very friendly man because he seems to like Joy when they meet for a date and calls her a sweet little girl whom he claims to have liked from the first day he saw her. Surprisingly, his real characters are later revealed in the story. In fact, he is neither a Christian nor a friendly man. He is a hypocrite, liar, swindler as well as a pretender. Firstly, he tells people that he is a believer while he is not. Secondly, during his date with Joy, she finds a bottle of whisky, a pack of condoms as well as obscene pictures in his suitcase. She gets so shocked and asks him, “Aren’t you just good country people? You are a Christian! You are just like them all- say one thing and do another. You are a perfect Christian, you are…..” (Giannone 14). Joy had already put trust in this man and cannot believe what she saw. O’Connor wants the reader to understand that one should not judge a book by its cover since people are not what they seems to be (Orvell 119).
In conclusion, O’Connor brings out the themes of good and evil. Also, she is so much against intellectual pretentions because they led to the downfall of the protagonist; Joy. Basically, the story makes the reader understand that all what goes around comes around.