One of Flannery O’Connor’s most successful stories, “Good Country People” was published in 1955. “Good Country People” addresses the of good versus evil, the foolishness of intellectual pretensions, and most importantly the theme of reality versus illusion. An important character Mrs. Hopewell’s daughter Hulga, born as Joy has a Ph. D but seems to have no common sense. She allows her self to be tricked by a “Bible salesman” and gets her self in to a binding situation.
Good Country people deals with illusion vs.reality this is shown when the author discusses Manley Pointer; the bible sales man, Joy thinking she is ugly, and the fact the Hulga and her mother tend to disagree about Hulga’s life decisions. Manley Pointer arrived one day toting a large valise that apparently held Bibles in which he was selling. Pointer easily charmed Mrs. Hopewell by telling her he was just a poor country boy with a heart condition that will soon kill him. He does not want to go to college he just wants to sale Bibles.
Hulga and Pointer connected over the fact that they both have “heart conditions” and may die soon. Hulga meets pointer the next day and plans to seduce him. The exact opposite happened. Pointer seduces Hulga by kissing her and telling her he loves her, she is also seduced into detaching her wooden leg. Pointer reveals to Hulga he is not a Bible sales man but just a con artist and he takes off with her leg. Manley Pointer puts on an illusion that he is “just good country people” by changing his demeanor but in actuality he is a “con artist. ”
Hulga is the main character that goes through a complete change throughout the story. She changes her name to Hulga, an “ugly” name, to reflect her feelings about her injured body and self, as the name is the opposite of her real name “Joy”, as is her personality. The significance of Joy remaining conscious even though terribly injured as a child indicates that Joy seems to have rejected her own body by choosing a life of intelligence and of the mind. As with her missing limb, Hulga’s “weak heart” operates as a symbolic as well as literal affliction.
Hulga closes her heart just as she rejects her body. This deals with the concept of illusion vs. reality because, Hulga feels that she is ugly therefore she changes her name to fit the way she feels about herself. Finally the last example of illusion vs. reality is the constant disagreeance between Hulga and her mother. Hulga’s mother, Mrs. Hopewell, convinced that Hulga would have “been better without a useless PhD. degree in philosophy”, has no comprehension of the one true meaning of life to her daughter. Mrs.
Hopewell feels that she can not brag on Hulga because, she sees her daughter as unsuccessful in life due to the meaninglessness of her degree. She is also upset with the fact that Hulga, formally known as Joy changes her name to better fit her personality. She feels that joy is a beautiful name and that Hulga is opposite from her view of herself. In final analysis the glass eye relates to the overall theme of the story illusion vs. reality because, the characters in the story see their situations differently than how they truly are.
The main character joy has no common sense and struggles to find her own identity. Another important aspect of illusion vs. reality is the “bible salesman” who is truly a con artist and get Hulga into a bind. Hulga’s mothers opinion of her is also seen to be an illusion to what it really is. Good Country people deals with the theme illusion vs. reality when the author discusses the “bible salesman, the fact that joy think she is ugly, and the disagreeance between joy and her mother about life decisions.
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