good country People: Overview Critic: John Ditsy Source: Reference Guide to Short Fiction, 1 st ed. , edited by Noelle Watson, St. James Press, 1994 Criticism about: (mary) Flannery O’connor (1925-1964), also known as: (Mary) Flannery O’Connor, Mary Flannery O’Connor Genre (s): Short stories; Novels; Gothic novels; Letters (Correspondence); Essays Perhaps there was a time when Flannery O’Connor was regarded chiefly as a cult author adored by Catholic readers on the basis of her unusual southern Catholic background, but those days are gone forever. Her fiction and her nonfiction are distinguished by a religious ardor, to be sure, but the former is never tendentious or preachy. Rather, O’Connor is artist enough to let her characters hang their own moral selves, generally on the basis of that pride that goeth before a fall, or that fails to anticipate its own shortcomings in the face of other forms of pride, and other follies and vices as well.
An often-anthologized story in this mode is “Good Country People.” Though its title drips with O’Connor’s usual caustic irony as regards folk sententiousness, it expands as the story proceeds to hoist as well those who think themselves superior to such simplistic usage. In her more public utterances, O’Connor noted that we are inclined to accept the southern grotesque as the local norm when we might well refuse its applicability to our own lives. In O’Connor’s work, we are all, northern and southern, capable of grotesqueries, in just the way Sherwood Anderson employed the term. In O’Connor’s unremitting world view, we are all monsters in some sense or other.
Compare the murder mysteries of "A Lamb To A Slaughter" and "The Speckled Band"? Roald Dahl wrote Lamb to the slaughter in 1954, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Speckled Band in 1892, that is around 62 yrs apart which would make the stories slightly different to each other because they were wrote in two different centuries. Roald Dahl was born in 1916 and died in 1990, Roald Dahl was most famous for ...
Ironical too are the names of the two women whose conversations parenthesize O’Connor’s story. Mrs. Hopewell is heard talking to her employee Mrs. Freeman, whom she has hired because she and her husband were reputed to be “good country people,” at the beginning and the ending of the story. Mrs.
Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman are quick to slip into the dialogue of maxims that apparently marks “good country people”: “I’ve always been quick. It’s some that are quicker than others.”Everybody is different,” Mrs. Hopewell said.
“Yes, most people is,” Mrs. Freeman said. “It takes all kinds to make the world.”I always said it myself.” These banal routines of oneupmanship morning banter are overheard by Mrs. Hopewell’s daughter, “large hulking Joy,” as early as the latter’s morning bathroom visits, and O’Connor begins to shift the story’s focus to this ungainly woman of 32 years who has lost a leg, acquired a Ph. D. in philosophy — which in her mother’s mind becomes redundantly useless — and changed her legal name to “Hulga,” a switch from a “beautiful name” to “the ugliest name in the language,” apparently the former Joy’s claim to having addressed her identity candidly.
It would hardly be surprising if the intellectual O’Connor might not have intended to parody herself in the person of Joy/Hulga. O’Connor was killed early on by the disease lupus, while Hulga, maimed in a hunting accident, has a “weak heart” and “might see forty-five” at best. Hulga contents herself with a philosophy that abhors the contemplation of nothingness and an attitude that holds her above the “nice young men” of the region. That is, at least until the Bible salesman comes calling. Manley Pointer, with his hilariously phallic name, ingratiates himself with Mrs. Hopewell, even though she has no desire to buy one of his Bibles, because he is also “good country people”; Hulga, operating at a supposedly more sophisticated level of insight, might have found him attractive because she feels his superiority as an unbeliever, or because they share the same “heart condition.” He admires her wooden leg and her glasses; she meets him by prior arrangement, having imagined seducing him and thus getting “an idea across even to an inferior mind,” her “true genius” being able to deal with his expected remorse.
Harper Lee portrayed Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose in an unique style. Mrs. Dubose was a very ill woman who only has a nigger woman as company. Her illness had separated her from socializing with friends and had restricted her from doing things that normal women are doing. For instance, having afternoon tea with neighbors, or taking a night stroll with friends. Mrs. Dubose was a very straight ...
Only through the logic of threes does the reader note O’Connor’s suggestion that Hulga’s defects include not only defective vision and a missing leg, but also her status as a conscious nonbeliever. Finding that she can endure his kisses with detachment, Hulga goes further in her pride and reveals her non belief, which the young boy accepts with “admiration” as though she were a “fantastic animal at the zoo.” She even leads him to the barn loft where he removes her glasses, after which, with unwitting irony, she pities him: “I don’t have illusions. I’m one of those people who see through to nothing”; she claims to have achieved “a kind of salvation by having taken her blindfold off. Insisting on honesty between them, she tells him that she is “thirty years old” — shaving off a couple of years — and that “I have a number of degrees.”I don’t care a thing about all what all you done,” he replies, as though she had confessed to a sordid past; and he demands to be told that she loves him, which she does after a series of ardent kisses, congratulating herself on having “had seduced him.” The reader notes the sexual role-reversal here, the boy asking for assurances of love, the woman seducing, or thinking she is. As if to play up that aspect of the story, O’Connor has the young man request that she remove her artificial leg for him, something she “took care of… as someone else would his soul.” It is what makes her different, he says, tallying with the notion of soul.
Bernard Shaws famous play Saint Joan recalls the legend of a young girl who leads her nation to an improbable victory against the English. Joan of Arc has since become a role model for girls and women everywhere as a woman who conquered seemingly indomitable odds in a world of men. But one must wonder: Would the legend of Saint Joan have the magnificence that it does had Joan not been burned when ...
Faced with his innocence, she complies, and she finds in her quasi-sexual yielding that “It was like losing her own life and finding it again miraculously, in his.” This parody of Christian paradox makes the boy her false savior, and almost immediately, the boy takes from his case of Bible samples one that actually contains a flask of whiskey, a box of condoms, and a pack of pornographic playing cards. He startles her by saying that though he is “good country people,” he is no “perfect Christian” but someone who has been believing in “nothing” since birth. In a grotesque ending worthy of Faulkner, the young man scrambles out of the barn loft with Hulga’s artificial leg, her glasses, and, one hopes, her self-deception. But the narration al camera pans back to Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs.
Freeman, who reflect in their ignorance on how “simple” the good country boy is. In this masterful moral tale, Flannery O’Connor shows us a character who, with her useless Ph. D. in Philosophy, might instead have better studied the one about the farmer’s daughter and the traveling salesman.