Good Country People Literary Analysis

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Erika Fuller
“Good Country People”
Flannery O’Connor’s dismissal of the outside world allows you to understand more of the symbolic quality of all of the active characters. Even the names she chooses for each character help her to establish their significance in the story. O’Connor uses symbolism, good versus evil and the psychological and physiological problems of the characters to create irony in “Good Country People”. O’Connor also uses Biblical parallels for inspiration to depict events in the story. All of O’Connor’s stories have characters that aren’t your typical run of the mill people; she also uses a lot of symbolism and irony in her characters physical appearances. The story is divided into four distinct sections which helps emphasize the relationships between the four main characters. O’Connor is able to establish subtle parallels between Mrs. Hopewell and Joy/Hulga, and Pointer and Mrs. Freeman by dividing the story into these sections. It also allows her to show the different sides of each character. All of these writing techniques help her establish depth in her story and she uses these techniques in nearly all of her stories. “There is very little going on of consequence in the action plot, but massive movement in the character arc” (Jones). In “Good Country People” O’Connor uses a third person narrator to tell the story of various women. First the narrator introduces two families or very different social stance. Mrs. Hopewell is a widow who lives a life dictated by social accuracy and her daughter Joy/Hulga who only lives with her mother in a physical sense. The name "Hopewell" characterizes both Mrs. Hopewell and her daughter. Both women are individuals who simplistically believe that what they want can be had — although each of them is, in her own way, blind to the world as it really exists. Both women fail to see that the world (because it is a fallen world) is a mixture of good and evil. This misperception leads them to assume that the world is much simpler than it actually is. Since both Hulga and her mother have accepted this false view of reality, each of them "hopes well" to tailor that made up world to meet her own needs; Mrs. Hopewell by living in a world where clichés operate as truth, and Hulga by insisting that there is nothing behind, or beyond, the surface world. Despite the parallels between Mrs. Hopewell and her daughter they have a very feeble relationship. Mrs. Hopewell may sound like she has an accepting compassion for everyone and “would probably sum up her inability to understand her daughter-with-a-Ph.D. by saying, "She's brilliant, but she doesn't have a grain of sense." (CliffNotes.com), but in reality she can’t come to terms with the fact that her daughter is different. She sees Joy/Hulga’s acts of rebellion as annoying, immature pranks done to spite her. In all actuality it is Hulga’s Ph.D. in philosophy that creates a major problem between them. Mrs. Hopewell wants to be able to brag about her daughter like she does Mrs. Freeman’s but doesn’t feel like she can because “You could not say “My daughter is a philosopher.” That was something that had ended with the Greeks and Roman” (O'Connor 268). The way her daughter dresses is also something that drives a wedge between them Mrs. Hopewell thinks that Hulga's wearing "a six-year-old skirt and a yellow sweat shirt with a faded cowboy on a horse embossed on it…Mrs. Hopewell thought it was idiotic and showed simply that she was still a child.” (O'Connor 268). Mrs. Hopewell is angry and embarrassed by her daughter’s behavior, “her name change (from "Joy" to "Hulga") cut such a wound into Mrs. Hopewell that she will never entirely heal” (CliffNotes.com), but ultimately accepts it because her daughter never got to have a “normal good time” (O'Connor 266). Joy/Hulga is in constant contact with a vain but simple-minded mother and an apparently simple-minded but crafty hired woman. At her mother’s failure to understand her, she...
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