Pride of Intellect Versus Corruptness of the Heart in Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People"Ã¯Â¿Â½ Much of Flannery O'Connor's writing shows how she thinks the heart is dark and complex: a battlefield of mixed emotions such as greed and religious feelings. Her writing connects with violence and shows how cruel and unusual a corrupt heart can be. "Good Country People"Ã¯Â¿Â½ has the shattering encounter of pride of intellect (usually irreligion) and the corrupt human heart (usually criminal, insane, or sometimes sexually demonic), which shows her repeated paradigms of the pride of intelligence versus the corruptness of the human heart, and how this is her main theme of the story.
Two of the main characters, Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman, display how even the simplest people can be corrupt. Mrs. Freeman, who is called "good country people"Ã¯Â¿Â½ by Mrs. Hopewell is corrupted by her "fondness for the details of secret infections, hidden deformities, assaults upon children"ÃÂ¦ and diseases,"Ã¯Â¿Â½ of which she "preferred the lingering or incurable."Ã¯Â¿Â½
Mrs. Freeman could hear of the story of how Hulga's leg was "literally blasted off,"Ã¯Â¿Â½ and act as if it "had happened an hour ago"Ã¯Â¿Â½ (120). Mrs. Hopewell, just like her name, hoped for all to go well. She would not consider her daughter grown up, for she was saddened that the accident had happened; "she thought of her still as a child because it tore her heart to think instead of the poor stout girl in her thirties who had never danced a step or had any normal good times"Ã¯Â¿Â½ (119-120). She also had a pride of intellect, in that she knew just how to handle the woman (Mrs. Freeman). "She was able to use other people's [bad qualities] in such a constructive way"Ã¯Â¿Â½ that she was able to make use of even the woman who "want[ed] to know all your business"Ã¯Â¿Â½ (118-119). The usage of bad qualities, although intelligent, is also a corrupted action.
Flannery O'Connor presents such an irony of a theme that it can evolve in just one person by itself. Manley Pointer, or so-called the "bible salesman,"Ã¯Â¿Â½ presents in himself that intelligence and corruptness presides together to make such a twist in plot that you would not have suspected. Being a bible salesman, one would think Mr. Pointer would be true to the heart, a solid Christian who knows the bible and would be the typical "good country person."Ã¯Â¿Â½ He claimed that he "wanted to become a missionary because he believed that was the way you could do most for people"Ã¯Â¿Â½ (123). Later in the story we learn that this simple person is really the corrupted human, who craves for Hulga's wooden leg and other woman's needed parts: "I got a woman's glass eye this way."Ã¯Â¿Â½ We also find out that he lied about his name, and that he really isn't a Christian after all (130).
Lastly, the conflict of Intellect versus Corruptness takes on the battle between Hulga and Mr. Pointer, being the pride of intellect in Hulga and the corruptness of the heart in the bible salesman. Hulga is a very smart woman and knows it, considering she had a Ph.D. and felt that she would be "in a university lecturing to people who knew what she was talking about"Ã¯Â¿Â½ if it were not for her heart illness (120). The bible salesman is a corrupted thief with a twisted fetish for artificial body parts. He uses his criminal mind to sway the intelligent Hulga into letting him take her leg off and then distracts her with sexual desire to keep her mind off of her missing leg. His knifing leads him to walking off with Hulga's leg, leaving her to reanalyze herself and to realize there is no such thing as "good country people"Ã¯Â¿Â½.
It seems that Flannery O'Connor sees the human heart as a pretty dark place where the ever-going turmoil of intellect versus corruptness is contained. The characters she uses in her story helps to support this statement. The realizations that O'Connor makes are all too real in this world, and she has a gift for getting the point across that there cannot really be such a thing as "good country people."Ã¯Â¿Â½ Her writing displays the repeated paradigms that definitely prove the continuous battle between pride of intellect and corrupted hearts.
Bibliography: Mcmahn, Elizabeth, Susan Day, Robert Funk. Literature and the Writing Process. Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458