Hulga in “Good Country People”

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  • Topic: Belief, Critical thinking, Vulcano
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  • Published : March 30, 2008
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Hulga in “Good Country People”

“She looked at young men as if she could smell their stupidity” (638). This exemplifies the attitude of Hulga, the protagonist in “Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor. Hulga is a woman who has been dealt a tough hand in life, and lives with disabilities but still maintains a wrongly arrogant front. Hulga has chosen to believe in nothing, thinking that there is no purpose to life. Through her arrogant actions, ignorance and belief in nothing, Hulga is brought to her downfall and shown the inadequacy of her beliefs in the world and herself. (a major theme in O’Connor’s writing.)

O’Connor paints a picture of a woman who thinks she has everything figured out, but her use of irony in the setting shows that things are not as they seem. Hulga’s real name is Joy, which is very ironic considering the description of her by Mrs. Hopewell as a “poor stout girl in her thirties who had never danced a step or had any normal good times” (636). Hulga’s interactions with Mrs. Hopewell are also rife with irony that while she is a woman, her actions appear to be those of a teenager. She stomps around the kitchen unnecessarily, balks at taking a walk with her mother, and refuses to dress in anything but a sweatshirt. The very fact that she is a very educated woman, having obtained a PhD, is telling. She tried to obtain the Ph.D. so she could be independent and “far away from these red hills and good country people” (637). Yet a heart condition kept her home. She also legally changed her name to Hulga, partly because it was ugly and would make her mother angry. This is also ironic as it shows how immature she is, and shows that she is completely consumed by her false beliefs.

The changing of her name from Joy to Hulga is a literary allusion used by O’Connor, and foreshadows the shattering of her false beliefs. In Roman mythology, Vulcan is the god of fire and has a relationship with Venus. Venus loves Vulcan and will do anything for him,...
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