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“A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.” —- Flannery O’Connor
There is a very talented, religious, and controversial American female writer, who lived a short life, wrote two novels and thirty-three short stories. Her name is Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor’s works represent an important aspect of American Southern culture. O’Connor uses female characters many times in her short stories, such as “Good Country People” and “Everything That Rises Must Converge”.
O’Connor describes her female characters, such as Mrs. Hopewell, Hulga, and Julian’s mother in memorable ways; uses them to represent of a piece of herself; and characterizes them as unpleasant people to bring the truth of humanity. O’Connor uses backgrounds and interactions to characterize Mrs. Hopewell in “Good Country People” in memorable ways. “Good Country People”, when O’Connor describes the relationship between Mrs.
Hopewell and Hulga, she writes that, “Mrs. Hopewell thought it was nice for girls to go to school to have a good time but Joy had gone through”” (436).
O’Connor uses background story to describe Mrs. Hopewell as a kind woman. Because Mrs. Hopewell pays Hulga all the tuition, which suggests that she is kind and loves her daughter. In addition, that suggests that she is a strong single mother. If Mrs. Hopewell is not strong enough, Hulga may not get the chance to study for Ph.
D.. However, Mrs. Hopewell never thinks that Joy will study in philosophy and never believes that Joy can get a PhD degree, because Mrs. Hopewell believes that it is not decent for a girl to study philosophy. In addition, O’Connor uses the interaction between Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman to characterize Mrs. Hopewell. After Manley Pointer leaves, Mrs. Hopewell told Mrs. Freeman, “he bored me to death but he was so sincere and genuine I couldn’t be rude to him. He was just good country people, you know” (441). Mrs. Hopewell is very kind to Manley and Mrs. Hopewell smiles to his face when he tries to sell bibles. However, Mrs. Hopewell thinks that “he bored [her] to death,” which suggests that she is a hypocrite. O’Connor indicates that Mrs. Hopewell is kind and hospitable by saying “well, come in” (438) to Manley. O’Connor does not show the personality directly to the readers. Instead, she uses the backgrounds and interactions to characterize the female characters in her works.
The reason why O’Connor uses special female characters as a hallmark of her style is that some of the stories are based on her own experience, such as Hulga in “Good Country People”. In 1955, O’Connor met a young Danish book salesman. O’Connor then fell in love with him. When the Dane took her for a ride, O’Connor kissed him. The Dane felt that “he was kissing a skull” (462). The Dane left O’Connor, and he told her he was married. A couple of days after, O’Connor wrote the story, “Good Country People”. “Good Country People” is about a girl, Hulga, who lost a leg and try to seduce a fetishist and fake bible salesman, Manley Pointer. Mary Gordon, an American writer and the McIntosh Professor of English at Barnard College, states that, “Flannery says that the character she most identifies with is the girl whose wooden leg is stolen” (462). The Dane stole a piece of her, just as Manley steals Hulga’s wooden leg. Moreover, the sadness from O’Connor is the reason why Hulga is vulnerable. In addition, in “Good Country People”, O’Connor writes that, “during the night she had imagined that she seduced him” (442) and “she was trying to draw the breath out of him” (444). Then in Flanner’s Kiss, Mary Gordon states that, “[O’Connor] would like him to kiss her” (462), which means that O’Connor tries to seduce the Dane. The seducement from Hulga also shows that O’Connor writes based on her personal experiences.
Flannery O’Connor uses social interactions to characterize Julian’s mother as an unpleasant woman in “Everything That Rises Must Converge” to tell the truth of human nature. In “Everything That Rises Must Converge”, Julian’s mother tells Julian that, “Your great-grandfather had a plantation and two hundred slaves” (449). O’Connor uses the interaction between Julian’s mother and Julian to show that Julian’s mother still thinks she is high class and thinks that she is better than African American. In other words, she believes that the time has not changed. Then when a white woman, who has protruding teeth and long yellow hair, gets on the bus and sits next to Julian’s mother, Julian’s mother tries to make a conversation with her. Julian’s mother says that “I see we have the bus to ourselves” (451). The social interaction between Julian’s mother and the woman, who sits next to her, suggests that they are both racist. The author from Writing Short Stories says that, “you can’t cut characters from their society and say much them as individuals” (459). If O’Connor does not show the social interaction between Julian’s mother and other people, readers may not find the truth of human nature through the unpleasant woman, Julian’s mother.
Flannery O’Connor uses the female characters in many ways, use them as unpleasant characters to reach the deep meaning of humanity, and use them as a way to share her personal experience. Flannery O’Connor once says that, “I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I am afraid it will not be controversial” (qtd. in Hill). O’Connor uses female characters many times in her short stories. Each of the female characters is controversial. Mrs. Hopewell is kind but hypocrite; Hulga is vulnerable and loses one leg; Julian’s mother is racist and stubborn. O’Connor uses different ways to characterize the females in her works to show people the deep meaning behind every story.
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