Analysis of “Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor
During her short literary race, Flannery O’Connor managed to fall into the spotlight of many influential literature experts and critiques and conquer the minds of millions of people. Her status as a devout Catholic woman dwelling in the predominantly protestant South and the times of World War II and the Cold War laid a noticeable imprint on her literary style, purposes, and techniques. Among her numerous works, Good Country People is one the most famous masterpiece with an interesting plot raising eternal themes of hypocrisy, violence, selfishness, and falsehood. This paper aims at providing an in-depth analysis of three literary devices used by the author in Good Country People.
Good Country People is affluent with irony that begins from the title and ends with the final paragraph. This tool is revealed in characters, their relationships, names, and the discrepancy between their expectations and reality. For instance, the name “Manley” sounds like “manly,” which is typically associated with having the qualities such as strong, honorable, brave, or earnest. However, Manley Pointer performs an entirely wicked role in the narration, and his virility only manifests itself in the verbal fields.
In addition, the apparent irony unfolds in the relationship between Hulga and Pointer. The former thinks that she will be the one who seduces Pointer, but everything appears otherwise: Hulga is ultimately left bitterly cheated and offended. It is also worth noting that Joy believes she personifies nihilism, but then, simple Christian Pointer unveils his actual moral values. Finally, only Mrs. Freeman manages to distinguish Manley’s true nature and Hopewell’s comment on country people’s role, saying, “Some can’t be that simple. I know I never could” (O’Connor 16). In contrast, O’Connor shows that despite her Ph.D. degree in philosophy, Hulga is blind like her mother, whose views on reality are equally false and misleading.
Epiphany visits two central characters of the story, namely, Mrs. Hopewell and Hulga, who both consider that they know the truth and the surrounding world. Hulga trusts Manley totally by giving him her artificial leg and even imagines that “she would run away with him and that every night he would take the leg off and every morning put it back on again” (O’Connor 15). Nevertheless, a moment of grace occurs when Pointer betrays Joy’s faith in him and destructs her assumptions about her powerful intellect. Additionally, O’Connor utilizes the final paragraphs to indicate that Mrs. Hopewell will also face the same woeful revelation that Hulga has now undergone. After Freeman’s words, “I know I never could,” readers receive the impression that Hopewell will lose her confidence in her capacity to control Mrs. Freeman.
Several prominent symbols are present in the narration, including Hulga’s leg, Manley Pointer’s Bible, and Hulga’s glasses. Specifically, Hulga’s leg, lost in childhood during a hunting accident, serves as a substitute for her soul and broken identity. Throughout the story, Joy strives to appear strong, clever, and independent, scorning others for their believing in God. However, this presentation of power is artificial, eventually, like her wooden leg. Likewise, the glasses are linked to Hulga’s ability to see the world distinctly. The loss of Hulga’s glasses marks her complete perception loss since she stops resisting Manley’s kisses.
Finally, a hollowed-out Bible filled with cards, condoms, and a flask of liquor represents Pointer’s religious condition, which is empty, meaningless, and illusory. Manley is something much more than seems at first glance.
This paper has analyzed three literary techniques used by Flannery O’Connor in Good Country People. First, the narration is rife with irony throughout the plot, which is unfolded in characters, their relationships, names, and the discrepancy between their expectations and reality. Second, two main characters of the story, namely, Mrs. Hopewell and Hulga, who both consider that they realize the truth, experience epiphany. Finally, the story’s symbols include Hulga’s leg, Manley Pointer’s Bible, and Hulga’s glasses.
O’Connor, Flannery. Good Country People. Gothic Digital Series, 1955.