Don’t Judge a Bible Salesman by His Cover: An in-depth analysis of the major theme in Flannery O’Conner’s “Good Country People”

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In the short story “Good Country People”, Joy Hopewell (Hulga) is a highly educated woman full of self-perceived inadequacies and physical maladies that plague her perception of herself. She has had a life-long heart-condition, suffers from extreme near-sightedness, and at an early age lost her leg in a hunting accident. Unable to physically interact with the world as vigorously as those around her, Hulga has thrown herself into her studies and the philosophical texts she is so fond of quoting. Interestingly, enough her myopic vision serves a physical malady, but more importantly it is analogous to her “near-sighted” view of those around her. Hulga views her enhanced level of education as a symbol of her intellectual superiority to those she interacts with. She is described in the story as having blinded herself out of sheer willpower and is intending to stay that way (Placeholder1). She often loses herself in her books, which no one else in her life would understand, and often touts her beliefs in science as opposed to a divine God. Hulga imagines this to be a reflection of her worldly sophistication, but in reality it is merely an indication of her childlike naivety (Placeholder2). In Hulga’s mind, her efforts to reject the existing social structure of her life is due to her insight and superior intelligence. In reality, however, she is simply unable to cope with the mismatch between her real life and her ideal one. The introduction of a traveling bible salesman, Manley Pointer, serves as a turning point in the life of Joy Hopewell. Manley is representative of everything that Hulga finds repugnant and distasteful with life. He is introduced as a simple man with no education and a ridiculous belief in a non-existent god. His la... ... middle of paper ... ...anley reveals that he is a dangerous and devious man that seduces women with handicaps and leaves them longing and used. As he prepares to leave the loft he sneers at Hulga, “I’ll tell you another thing Hulga, yo u ain’t so smart. I [have] been believing in nothing ever since I was born” (Placeholder6). The irony of Hulga’s situation is that in devising a situation in which she might disprove the existence of God, she meets the Devil. Works Cited Muller, Gilbert. (2009). Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts on File, Inc. accessed April 8, 2012. O'Connor, Flannery. "Good Country People." The Bedford Introduction to Literature. 9th ed. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011. 460-473. Print O'Connor, Flannery. "Revelation." The Bedford Introduction to Literature. 9th ed. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011. 474-488. Print.

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