Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor

Essay by Rkrosebud April 2005

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Love and friendship create the makings for a wonderful story but why not add a twist of mistrust and deceit to really grab you by the heartstrings? That's what Flannery O'Conner did in "Good Country People." Through her vivid character descriptions, she clearly communicates the idea that people aren't always what they seem. The irony and symbolism that exists in her portrayal of relationships clearly communicates her theme that there is often much more to a person than what appears on the surface.

To say the least, the character development is diverse in "Good Country People." Joy, or Hulga as she preferred to be called, had a degree in philosophy which she believed made her far smarter than others due to her academic background and credentials. It does not take long to discern Hulga's lack of good sense and smarts as she becomes acquainted with the good ol' bible salesman, a man supposedly honest and good as he makes his living by selling the good word and enriching the lives of the country folk.

He begins by courting Hulga, and upon winning her over, they meet one afternoon for a walk. During this walk, their true colors begin to shine through. After being led on a seemingly spontaneous walk through the woods, Hulga is humiliated when the conniving salesman expresses his desire to have sex with her. Much to Hulga's dismay, upon denying him any sexual favors, he takes her wooden leg which quickly reveals her naivety and fragility.

The symbolism is strong as we witness the theft of Hulga's wooden leg by a supposedly good and true Christian Bible salesman. This event is the greatest indicator of Hulga's true vulnerability. As a child, Hulga lost her leg for which the doctors provided her with a...