I believe the main theme in Flannery O’Connors’s short story, ” Good Country People” is approval; everyone wants to believe that they are beautiful and we seek approval from both our parents and friends.
In this short story a girl, Joy, longs for her mothers approval. After she is unable to get her mothers approval Joy starts believing that she is unworthy of anyone’s admiration. Joy is thirty-two years of age and has a wooden leg, which makes it even harder for her to be socially accepted. Joy’s wooden leg represents the on going theme of approval in O’Connor’s story. Joy changes her name to Hulga which Mrs.Hopewell feels is one of the ugliest names she could have chosen. This could be interpreted as a representation of how Joy “Hulga” feels about herself.
I do not want to say that I do not have any beliefs, honestly I don’t know what it is that I believe in. To me this story depicts the real meaning of life and how you can be happy with your own self, disability or not. By changing her name to Hulga I believe that Joy not only accepts herself but realizes that not everyone is meant to be made perfectly.
Hulga’s main accomplishment is her education, a Ph. D in Philosophy. Joy’s mother, Mrs. Hopewell did not like the fact that her daughter had gotten a Ph. D in Philosophy. ” My daughter is a schoolteacher, or even my daughter is a chemical engineer. You cant say, my daughter, the philosopher. That was something that had ended with the Greeks and Romans,” (O’Conner, 276). Hulga’s mother was never really accepting of her daughters choices.
Another main character in this short story is, Manley Pointer. I could consider his role in this story to be very ironic. He goes around selling bibles to so called “non-believers” but can never leave without stealing something. This character is a very smooth talking and can almost always out talk his way out of any tight or difficult situation. Ultimately, the deception of portrayal and deceiving has been seen to symbolize the devil. Pointer starts his deceiving by coming off as to good to be true and overly friendly; all in all a true christian.
” I hope you don’t think,” he said in a lofty indignant tone, ‘that I believe in that crap! I may sell bibles but I know which end is up and I wasn’t born yesterday and I know where I’m going,” (O’Connor, 290). Manley finally comes clean to Hulga and admits that he is not really who he says he is and that he is not a christian. Manly had beaten the Hulga, a woman who believed that he was such an innocent man and not much else, began to believe in the man he was and who they could be together. Hulga had “decided that for the first time in her life she was face to face with real innocence”. (289)
This short story has opened my eyes, in the simple fact that the characters are so symbolic. Each one representing faith in their own way. From their names such as, Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman to Hulga’s symbolic wooden leg. We discussed in class the importance of the characters names such as: Mrs. Freeman, free; Mrs. Hopewell, hope; Joy Hopewell, joy; Manly Pointer; man. Each name or figure represents some sort of theme; which makes this short story much more ironic.
O’Connors depiction of this story is both comical and very meaningful in many different ways. Mrs. Freeman is comical at the beginning of the story when her facial expressions are described as never being wrong and when she is, it is evident “her face comes to a complete stop”. (271) Mrs. Hopewell considers herself to be a good person, with each character she sees the good and focuses on that. The reason behind this may be a way of comfort to just see the good, and ignore the bad in people. Joy uses her education as a way of having wisdom and avoiding a belief in any type of religion. Manly is a symbol of deception and control, he takes every situation and manipulates it to his advantage.
The characters in this short story portray many people that I associate with in real life. From Mrs. Hopewell who always sees the good things in everybody and does whatever she can to help people out. And Manly, who is like almost every male in this world; in it only for the benefit of himself and in the end hes only going to do something if it benefits him in the end. Then there is Hulga, who is very conscious of the people around her and she also lacks confidence. She lives a very timid life and is afraid to live her own life, shes to worried about what someone is going to say to her.
This short story is a very good deception of everyday life and challenges that people are faced with daily. It also contains many different symbols and opened my eyes to the meaning of faith.