“Good Old Country People” –Pride is Stronger Than Most Think Pride throughout literature has been heavily manipulated by authors in positive and negative lights to reflect their intended purpose. In the majority of Flannery O’Conner‘s stories, characters who have pride exude more arrogance than they do confidence, and as a result these characters condescend towards those of lower standards. In “Good Country People,” O’Conner attacks pride to be a negative influence on society in which the central character Hulga has so much pride that she condescends towards others.
Here, Hulga condescends towards her mother, Mrs. Freeman, and the bible salesman by treating them as imbeciles and is eventually punished for it by losing her leg. O’Conner defines Hulga’s pride but lets the reader determine and attack how negative it is and therefore how appropriate her punishment is for her actions. A clear example of the pride in herself that Hulga (also known as Joy) displays is seen by the way that she believes she is better than the country.
“Joy had made it plain that if it had not been this condition, she would be far from these red hills and good country people. She would be in a university lecturing to people who knew what she was talking about” (175).
Hulga clearly indicates in this statement that she would rather not have to deal with naive country people, and would rather talk to those which are as smart as she is. O’Conner just describes Hulga’s feelings about the country but leaves it up to the readers to decide whether such feelings are the right ones to have. The natural reaction of the reader that O’Conner would be trying to induce is one that rejects the feelings. Ideally the reader would see that Hulga is not treating the country people as equals to university students and therefore see that Hulga is condescending in a way that makes her feel superior while exuding negative pride.
Another example of the way O’Conner lets the reader decide how negative Hulga’s pride is can be shown when she talks to the bible salesman. When Hulga is confronted by the salesman about not believing in god, the salesman claims that she isn’t “saved” because of it. Hulga then pompously replies that “I’m saved and you are damned” (182). This statement alone clearly shows how much better Hulga thinks she is than the naive bible salesman. She thinks that although she doesn’t believe in god she is much smarter than the salesman, and therefore she is blessed for being smart and the salesman is damned for being dumb.
The reader is then once again enticed to dislike Hulga’s personality and the pride that goes along with it. In the end she is punished for her sinful ego when she loses her leg. O’Conner then lets the reader not only decide whether the punishment is right after seeing Hulga’s prideful nature, but also to what extent Hulga should be punished. Should she end up getting help back to her home or just crawl her way back? Throughout “Good Country People”, Flannery O’Conner ultimately is attacking pride, and she does make it clear that she is doing so. However she does this through the emotional and mental rejection of such pride from the reader.
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