Good Country People by Flannery OConnor Characterization as Theme Essay

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Good Country People by Flannery OConnor Characterization as Theme

The Depth of Hulga?s Despair

Characterization is the most prevalent component used for the development of themes in Flannery O?Connor?s satirical short story ?Good Country People.? O?Connor artistically cultivates character development throughout her story as a means of creating multi-level themes that culminate in allegory. Although the themes are independent of each other, the characters are not; the development of one character is dependent upon the development of another. Each character?s feelings and behavior are influenced by the behavior of the others.

Joy/Hulga, as the story?s main character, is the singly most significant character to the themes of this story. She is characterized as brilliant and academically sophisticated, yet naïve to the feelings and motivations of others. Ironically, Hulga has a Ph.D. in philosophy, yet she has a very narrow view of her world and no insight into other people?s true character. This contrast in Hulga?s character is the topic of one of the story?s themes: academic knowledge is not to be confused with common sense.
O?Connor continues to establish theme through her characterization of Hulga. She describes Hulga as being cynical about the world and the people she knows. The irony here is that she sees these people as being simple ?country people,? she doesn?t see them as they actually are, full of hidden feelings and motivations. She views herself as superior to her mother, Mrs. Hopewell, and her mother?s tenant, Mrs. Freeman. Her opinion of the other characters as less than herself, because of their tendency to see their world through the eyes of southern women, limits Hulga?s interaction with them. She...

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...cares for her and thus encourages her into letting down her guard and trusting him. This becomes Hulga?s downfall and the most important theme of O?Connor?s story: people aren?t always what they appear or ?you can?t judge a book by its cover.? Her narcissism allows Manley to talk her into removing her leg. He grabs it and runs off with it, but not before letting her know that he has played her for the fool. O?Connor?s comprehensive character development leads her readers into complacently judging Hulga as superior to the other characters in her story. She takes this a step further in her development of Manley Pointer as an innocent. Through this development, O?Connor lulls her readers into stereotyping the characters into the personas she wants them to see. Hulga?s epiphany is thematic. The ultimate irony is that not only is Hulga duped by Manley, her readers are too.

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