Good Country People
|"Good Country People"|
|Published in||A Good Man is Hard to Find|
|Publication type||single author anthology|
"Good Country People" is a short story by Flannery O'Connor. It was published in 1955 in her short story collection A Good Man is Hard to Find. A devout Roman Catholic, O'Connor often used religious themes in her work. This story is often considered to be one of her greatest stories.
Mrs. Hopewell owns a farm in rural Georgia which she runs with the assistance of her tenants, Mr. and Mrs. Freeman. Mrs. Hopewell's daughter, Joy, is thirty-two years old and lost her leg in a childhood accident. Joy is an atheist and has a Ph.D. in philosophy but seems non-sensible to her mother, and in an act of rebellion against her mother, Joy changed her name to "Hulga," the ugliest name Mrs. Hopewell can imagine.
A Bible salesman, purportedly named Manley Pointer, visits the family and is invited for dinner despite the Hopewells' lack of interest in purchasing Bibles. Mrs. Hopewell believes Manley is "good country people." While leaving the home, Pointer invites Joy for a picnic date the next evening, and she ironically imagines seducing the innocent Bible salesman. During the date, he persuades her to go up into the barn loft where he persuades her to remove her prosthetic leg and takes her glasses. He then produces a hollowed-out Bible containing a bottle of whiskey, sex cards, and some condoms. He tries to get her to drink some liquor, but she rebuffs his advances. At that point he disappears with her leg after telling her that he collects prostheses from disabled people and is a nihilistic atheist.
In "Good Country People," O'Connor uses irony and a finely controlled comic sense to reveal the modern world as it is—without vision or knowledge. As in O'Connor's story "A Good Man is Hard to Find," a stranger—deceptively polite but ultimately evil—intrudes upon a family with destructive consequences. In Hulga's case, despite her advanced academic degrees, she is unable to see what is bad, and her mother's stereotyping perspective proves to be equally misleading and false.
- Richard Giannone, Flannery O'Connor, hermit novelist (University of Illinois Press, 2000)
- Orvell, Miles. Invisible Parade: The Fiction of Flannery O'Connor. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1972, 136.
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