Love and friendship can make a wonderful story but why not add a twist of mistrust and deceit. That’s what Flannery O’conner did in “Good Country People.” By doing this she communicated her theme that people aren’t always what them seem. The Irony of the characters and what they symbolize exaggerates the theme very well.
The way the characters were developed showed their diversity in “Good Country People”. Hulga had a degree in philosophy which made her believe that she was smarter than everyone else because she had learned more than they had. But in all actuality she was not, this was proven by the good ol’ bible salesman who was supposed to be honest and good and he was making a living by selling family bibles to country people. He started courting Hulga and when he won her over they met one afternoon for a walk. During this walk both their true colors began to shine through. After being led on a not so unplanned walk through the woods. Hulga was humiliated when the conniving salesman wanted to have sex with her but when she denied him he took her wooden leg. Which showed her to be naive and fragile.
Through wooden legs and bibles symbolism comes through strongly. Hulga as a child lost her leg and the doctors gave her a wooden prosthetic leg as a replacement. This wooden leg props up its own symbolism throughout the story as well as it props up Hulga. She believed she needed no help throughout life. With her believe or non-believe rather, she has the notion she needs no family, no God, and no support. But really deep down she needs all of it. The leg physically support’s Hulga her whole life. When she has her wooden leg stolen from her by the bible salesman she realizes she had the support she needed all along, but until now when she loses one sort of support, does she know she needs the others as well. The Bible is also a big symbol in this story. The Holy Bible represents good and truth in the world.
The Bible salesman pushes this in his sales pitch, but to him it symbolizes a place where he can keep all his secrets. What’s inside the hollow Bible in his suitcase is what the Bible really symbolizes to him, absolutely nothing. To Him its a place to store his ideas of sex, booze, and porn. Which makes it really something that isn’t as it seems. Which leads to another symbol Hulga herself. After she becomes wise in the ways of the world and does not believe she needs God, or anyone else anymore. She changes her name of happiness, Joy, to an ugly meaningless name of Hulga. She does this to show to everyone that she does not need the joy or happiness in her life anymore, she has philosophy and education.
Irony comes through in many ways especially through the characters. Throughout the story Hulga believes she is more intelligent than the people in her family and town because she went to college and earned a Ph.D. in philosophy. The truth is though she is just as plain and simple as the “good country people” she is surrounded by. This is proven by the innocent bible salesman, who in all reality is pretty much the Devil. She goes out to seduce the innocent, but in turn she is blind to the fact he is tricking her. They lead each other to a barn where the innocent bible salesman shows his inner most devil by belittling all Hulga’s beliefs and reviling to her she is not better but just as simpleminded and naive as everyone else in her town.
Another ironic tidbit is how Joy changed her name to Hulga. It totally highlights the fact she wants nothing to do with her joyful Christian upbringing by her country uneducated family. And not unlike Hulga the bible salesman is also an ironic factor in this story. He is supposed to represent good Christian morals that are taught in church and through the bible. However all he is a thief and a whore with no morals. He is the pentacle of the bad boy scene. He keeps in the Holiest of all books the Bible condoms, a flask of booze and playing cards with naked girls on them. Then to top it off he likes to collect fake body parts he has stolen from girls he has fooled. It its completely not what one would learn from the Bible.
Finally Hulga accepts her name of Joy again and hopefully appreciates her family and how good that it can be from time to time to be simple. The salesman isn’t heard from again and life goes on. But after all of the twists and turns of the story “Good country People” by Flannery O’ Conner, one learns a moral from all the evil and mistrust. Never judge a book by its cover.