The story Good Country People begins by
introducing Mrs. Hopewell, a farmowner, and Mrs. Freeman, her tenant. Joy, Mrs.
Hopewell’s daughter, is thirty-two and has a prosthetic leg due to a hunting incident.
Joy restates on several occasions that she doesn’t believe in god and has a
Ph.D. in philosophy. She had her name changed to “Hulga” as a way to
rebel against her mother with the ugliest name possible.
Manley Pointer appears to
be just a Bible salesman, who stopped by Mrs. Hopewell’s house and attempted to
sell them a Bible. Mrs. Hopewell, disinterested in purchasing a bible, let him
stay for dinner instead. Mrs. Hopewell perceives Manley to be “good
country people,” which she restates throughout the story. When he leaves, Manley
invites Hulga to a picnic later the next day, and she agrees. While they are
picnicking, he coaxes her enter the barn with him. Manley convinces her to show
where her prosthetic leg attaches and takes her glasses. From his valise, Manley
reveals a hollowed Bible holding whiskey, obscene cards, and what can be
implied as condoms. He then reveals that his real name isn’t Manley and that he
isn’t a Christian. He also talks about other instances where he had stolen
Hulga’s prosthetic leg
symbolizes much more than I would expect at first. On the surface it seemed
like the leg is just a prop for the story, but it is quite the contrary. Flannery
O’Connor includes a key line that reveals the meaning of the leg. She states
that Hulga “took care of the leg as someone else would his soul” (page 493). This
becomes evident when Manley tries to separate her from the leg, making her
vulnerable and “entirely dependent on him”. A similar experience I could relate
to would be talking in a crowd and how vulnerable one can be when outside the
Mrs, Hopewell stated
something interesting: “Manley was just good country people” (page 489). This
is an example of something that everyone can relate to. There is always someone
in everyone’s life who turns out to be different than what they initially
seemed. In this case, Manley turns out to be the soulless thief toward the end
of the story.
In one of the closing
paragraphs, Mrs. Hopewell sees “Manley” for the last time. Oblivious to the
events prior, she suggests that “the world would be better off if we were all
that simple” (page 495). This is Flannery O’Connor’s further use of irony in the
story. Mrs. Hopewell and Hulga both believe that Manley is way too “simple” to deceive
them but this is far from true. Manley turns out to be one of the most clever characters
in the story.