The story “Good Country People”, by Flannery O’Conner is a work that uses characterization in a new and interesting way to help shape and present the characters of this story. One of the main characters is Hulga Hopewell, also known as Joy Hopewell. This characters name plays a very ironic role in the story. Through the use of such a peculiar name O’Conner helps to develop and build the characteristics of Hulga. In the story “Good Country People” the use of the name Hulga (Joy) Hopewell helps to further build upon the characterization of Hulga and give the reader a deeper understanding of the character.
Joy Hopewell is the name given to Hulga by her mother and father when she was a baby. This name brings to mind a person who looks on the brighter side of things and doesn’t let things discourage her. In the readers mind this name may perhaps bring about the image of a teacher or someone who works with children in a well light happy place. It is also a softer more vulnerable name, which may have been O’Conner’s intent in using the name Joy. In the story Joy changes her name to Hulga Hopewell because of the fact that she feels it better suits her personality. During her childhood Hulga had an accident in which her leg was shot off of her body; therefore, she has to wear a wooden leg that is rather bulky so by having the name Hulga it helps her to deter many people from asking questions or trying to get too close to her. Due to this accident Hulga becomes a brooding person, not very fond of company and entertainment. The name Hulga brings to mind a rather large Swedish woman who could probably break a man in half. It is a brooding name and awkward on ...
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...k that perhaps she should have kept her original name of Joy because it does in fact suit her.
Throughout this story it appears that there are two distinctly different sides of Hulga Hopewell. One side is that of Hulga large, brooding, and rude. The other side however, is softer and much more vulnerable. That side is Joy Hopewell. By using these two names together O’Conner creates a unique picture of this character. The revelation that Hulga’s real name is Joy gives the reader some insight and helps the reader to see the softer side of Hulga more easily. By using something as simple as a name in this story the author creates deeper meaning for each character.
O’Conner, Flannery. “Good Country People.” Literature An Introduction To Fiction, Poetry, And Drama. Eds. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia 3rd ed. New York Longman, 2003. 247-261
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