Irony in Good Country People

Topics: Irony, Flannery O'Connor, Good and evil Pages: 5 (748 words) Published: November 9, 2010
Irony in “Good Country People”

Flannery O’Connor uses characterization, and the themes of good versus evil and the

psychological and physical problems of the characters, to create irony in the story. The

characterization of both Mrs. Hopewell and Joy/Hulga creates irony, which begins with

their names. Then the theme of good versus evil, demonstrated by the belief that

country people are “good”, also creates irony.

The story is about a farm owner, Mrs. Hopewell, her only daughter Joy/Hulga, and a

Bible salesman named Manley Pointer. Joy/Hulga lost her leg at the age of ten due to a

hunting accident and although she gets a very high education, she lives a miserable life

at home with no one to talk to besides her mother and some hired help. She lives with

people who she thinks are inferior to her because of their simple ways, their religious

beliefs, and especially their lack of education. She believes she is superior to them

because she got a PhD in Philosophy. Joy/Hulga shows this superior attitude by failing to

show her mother any respect in the presence of the Mrs. Freeman, when she slams a door

and calls her mother “woman” while her mother was eating with Mrs. Freeman.

Mrs. Hopewell is an old lady who thinks she is in control of everything, and hopes

everything goes well, when in fact nothing goes well, which is ironic because her name is

Hopewell. Her problems start with Joy/Hulga who won’t talk with her, treats her poorly,

and brings her no pride. Mrs. Hopewell can’t figure out why she studied philosophy.

She gave her daughter the name of Joy Hopewell, however, her name is ironic because

she is neither joyful or hopeful. O’Connor demonstrates this irony when “as

soon as she was twenty-one and away from home she had it legally changed . Mrs.

Hopewell was certain that she had thought and thought until she had hit upon the ugliest

name in any language”.

O’Connor uses irony to reveal Joy’s physical and psychological problems in “Good

Country People”. Joy’s artificial leg is the obvious example of a physical limitation. It is

ironic that the only character in the story who seems “normal” is the only one with a

physical disability. It is also ironic that Joy/Hulga’s education failed her at the most

unexpected time. With all of her education and superiority, Joy/Hulga lacked common

sense. Joy/Hulga saw through Manley Pointer when he first arrives, and “had given him

one look on being introduced to him and then throughout the rest of the meal had not

glanced at him again.” Up until the end of the story you believe Joy understands the

situation she is in, and even says to Pointer, “I don’t have illusions. I’m one of the those

people who see through to nothing”. She says this just before Pointer convinces her to

remove her wooden leg and give it to him. He then steals her artificial leg. She then

learns she is not so smart.

O’Connor also uses the theme of good versus evil to demonstrate irony. The “good”

begins with Mrs. Hopewell hiring and “keeping Mrs. Freeman so long was that they were

not trash. They were good country people.” When Manly Pointer arrives at her home

he gains her confidence by stating, “I know I’m real simple. I don’t know how to say a

thing but to say it. I’m just a country boy”, to which she replies “good country people are

the salt of the earth!” “Why I think there aren’t enough good country people in the

world!” It is ironic how Pointer convinced Mrs. Hopewell that he was a good Christian country boy when in fact all he was an evil thief.

Flannery O’Connor uses characterization and the theme of good versus evil to create

dramatic and situational irony in “Good Country People”. He uses the dramatic and

situational irony to show vulnerability and power in the story. Mrs. Hopewell’s name is

used to show a life of...
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