Ashley N. Colson
September 30th, 2009
Symbolism in “Good Country People”
In Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People”, country people are seen as good down to earth honest people. However in actuality good people also have flaws in them as well. In O’Connor’s “Good Country People” there are six different characters portrayed in the story which are Mrs. Hopewell, Joy-Hulga, Mrs. Freeman, Carramae, Glynese, and Manley Pointer. Each character’s name reflects much about their personalities.
First we have Mrs. Hopewell. Mrs. Hopewell is a divorcee and a landlord. Mrs. Hopewell is a positive thinking woman and a devout Christian. The name Hopewell symbolizes Mrs. Hopewell’s hope for good things to happen to everyone. Mrs. Hopewell would use other people’s qualities in a good way so she never felt the lack of her own qualities. She is a very hospitable woman and she had a strong sense of superiority. Mrs. Hopewell is the type of person that knew more than anybody else. Mrs. Hopewell has a tendency to speak in clichés. One of her favorite sayings was “Nothing is perfect” (O’Connor 101). Mrs. Hopewell is kindly stating that everyone has flaws and nothing in this world is perfect. Mrs. Hopewell would be viewed as the type of person who encourages others to look on the bright side of things.
Next we have Joy-Hulga. Joy-Hulga is a thirty-two year old woman who has a heart condition that forces her to live with her mother Mrs. Hopewell. Joy-Hulga was shot in the leg during a hunting accident as a child and this is what led her to become dependent of her wooden leg. She has a degree in philosophy which makes her feel like she has a sense of superiority like her mother. Joy-Hulga is the type that assumes she knows more than others. Joy symbolizes happiness or a bright smile which Joy had neither one due to her disabilities. Joy didn’t feel happiness so she legally changed her name to Hulga. Hulga symbolizes ugliness. When you hear the name Hulga you would think of this big fat ugly woman which is a good representation of Joy-Hulga. Joy-Hulga would be viewed as the protagonist of the story.
Then we have Mrs. Freeman. Mrs. Freeman worked for the Hopewell’s as well as her husband who were both tenant farmers. Mrs. Freeman was a very outspoken woman who loved to gossip. She likes to be in charge of everyone else’s business. Freeman symbolizes a free minded person. She was viewed by Mrs. Hopewell as a very reliable and trustworthy person. When it came to wealth she couldn’t compete with Mrs. Hopewell but she did have more common sense than Mrs. Hopewell. Mrs. Hopewell tells her “You know you’re the wheel behind the wheel” (O’Connor 101). Mrs. Freeman states “I know it. I’ve always been quick. It’s some that are quicker than others” (O’Connor 101). Mrs. Freeman is simply stating that she has more sense than other people and she is on top of her game when it comes to pointing things out. Mrs. Freeman is the dominant force in the story.
Carramae and Glynese are Mrs. Freeman’s two daughters. Carramae is a blond fifteen year old that is married and pregnant. Glynese is a red head with many admirers. Even though Mrs. Hopewell didn’t think too much of the girls she stated that they were two of the finest girls she ever met. This was another way Mrs. Hopewell was finding the good qualities in everyone. Both Carramae and Glynese symbolizes that even though they are not highly educated they have plenty of common sense when it comes to men and relationships. This is evident by Glynese not wanting to be married in an office but rather by a preacher. These two girl's characterization were used to show how experienced they are with men and how Joy-Hulga doesn’t have a clue.
Finally we have Manley Pointer. Manley Pointer was a traveling bible salesman. At first, he seems very simple to Joy-Hulga. Manley symbolizes a very strong honest man. Pointer symbolizes how well he point things out to Joy-Hulga. However Manley Pointer is a liar and a con artist. He carries a hollow bible around with obscene playing cards, condoms, and whiskey. When Joy-Hulga allows Manley Pointer to remove the leg it was in a sense that she was losing her virginity. She had been dependent on that leg for so many years. Joy-Hulga’s plan was to seduce him but he uses reverse psychology on her. Manley Pointer states that he has a bad heart condition but in reality he is a cold-hearted person this is evident by him stealing Joy-Hulga’s leg and he tells her he goes from town to town doings things like this. He once stole a woman’s glass eye. Joy-Hulga then realized he was not the simple person she made him out to be.
Each character has their unique characteristics. Mrs. Freeman and Manley Pointer can be viewed as the superior characters in the story because they were the ones that have common sense. Carramae and Glynese have common sense when it comes to relationships and dating. Mrs. Hopewell and Joy-Hulga were the two naïve characters. They were the two that thinks you would have to wake up bright and early to pull a fast one of them but Manley Pointer tricked both of them. In this story the relationships between Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman are just as important as the relationships between Joy-Hulga and Manley Pointer. O’Connor shows how one individual can bring out the bad qualities in one person and bring out the bad qualities in themselves as well.