L. Ann Williams
ENG 125: Introduction to Literature
Instructor: Professor Brendan Praniewicz
The Plots of Deception
Deception can occur many ways in a story, play or poem. Several of the literary works we read in this class involved deception as a plot. Many of the people we read about appeared to be one type of person and ended up being a totally different one. I found it interesting that works by Flannery O’Connor, Lorraine Hansberry and Oscar Wilde could all have a deception plot as a theme. All three stories, although very different in many ways, have in them a common type of individual; that being a person who is either deceiving another whether intentional or not.
“Good Country People”
In “Good Country People,” Manley Pointer appears to be a young misperceived country boy who sells bibles, but this is an illusion of appearance versus reality. Pointer is so heavily weighted down by his suitcase that he is lopsided and has to “brace himself to prevent collapsing” making him appear to be misbalanced like Joy who is also known as Hulga. This heaviness foreshadows a quality of falsehood that one carries that makes their mind, soul, and body heavy. Misplaced faith in appearances is central to the themes of this story. Appearance and deception conflict with reality and truth, as Pointer assures Mrs. Hopewell that he is like her and can exchange generalizations about “good country people” as readily as Mrs. Freeman. The biblical quotation, Matthew 10:30, foreshadows the story’s ironic ending. Mrs. Hopewell prides herself in not being taken for a fool, but this boy seemed “so sincere, so genuine and earnest.” In a way, both literally and ironically, Pointer is a missionary, though not as Mrs. Hopewell believes. He delivers the message that not all people are what they appear to be. We see the character Joy (also known as Hulga) as isolated from her community but receives attention from Manley Pointer, a Bible salesman who appears to be a “good honest Chrustian(sic)”. She falls prey to Manley in ways that seem to support her cynical outlook and justify the desire to be isolated. At the same time there seems to be a desperate desire for what the external community offers (love, acceptance, and the exchange of meaningful ideas) that makes Hulga so vulnerable to the sinister salesman. Manley deceives as he barges in on the family dinner and as Joy/Hulga seduces him. Pointer plays up to each person’s expectations. Everyone thinks he is young, innocent, and wholesome, leading to Joy/Hulga’s fantasy about seducing him and having to deal with his remorse. But, despite her advanced academic degree, Hulga’s misguided thinking is apparent in her fantasy that she will mercilessly seduce the boy, and in her “dabbing of Vapex” (a pungent and medicinal ointment) on her collar instead of perfume. It is not until he is alone with Joy/Hulga that he reveals his true self and nature. He pulls out a flask from his bible and begins to show his true personality to her. She is shocked as he makes off with her glasses and prosthetic leg as a token of his conquest leaving her all alone in the barn as she watches his “blue figure struggling successfully over the green speckled lake”(p. 200). Not only did the salesman deceive Joy/Hulga, but he deceived every community he visited leaving with a personal token of his conquests; he tells Joy/Hulga, “I got one woman’s glass eye this way” (p. 200).
O’Connor formed a plot of intentional deception on the part of the bible salesman. He appeared to the other people in the community to be a good, solid man who believed in the word of God. However, he was not at all what he appeared to be. He took advantage of women, drank liquor and stole from trusting people. He was not in fact “Good Country People” as he was assumed to be by the people he met.
“A Raisin in the Sun”
“A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine...