Symbolism is used throughout the short story “Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor. There are a few targeted symbols that are introduced in an ironic manner. These symbols are very important to the plot of the story. The symbols presented are used to represent personality. “Good Country People” starts off by presenting two women, Mrs. Freeman and Mrs. Hopewell, discussing their children. Mrs. Freeman has two daughters, one married with a kid on the way and one who’s just doing her own thing. Mrs. Hopewell has one daughter, Joy, who renamed herself Hulga to make herself more unappealing. Joy is a woman with a cold heart, a wooden leg, and has never experienced love.
Joy is a large blond girl who had a wooden leg. She was thirty two years old and highly educated. One of the symbols in this selection is Joy’s wooden leg. When the wooden leg is first initiated in this short story, Flannery O’Connor made this a compelling object to make the reader feel sympathy for Joy. Even her own mother felt so bad for her, she would let Joy’s misconduct slide. “Mrs. Hopewell excused this attitude because of her leg (which had been shot off in a hunting accident when Joy was ten.)” (O’Connor 352).
As mentioned above, Joy’s leg was literally blown off in a hunting accident. Although this may seem dreadful, Joy had used her artificial leg to manipulate situations, that in some way suited her. Throughout the beginning of the story, multiple examples of manipulation was presented. One example is when she heavily stomps around the house, constructing a loud noise. Joy’s disability is symbolizing her as a whole. I examined this symbol until I came up with the most accurate conclusion. The artificial leg is very powerful yet fragile, this is an ultimate symbol because Hulga, also known as Joy, presents herself as a strong woman but deep inside she is very fragile herself. The wooden leg is strong in the sense it provides her stability and delicate because as soon as she took it off, it was just a piece of wood.
Flannery O’Connor made sure to add a plot twist to this story. Misrepresenting yourself is a fraudulent act. This point is made clear because of Manley Pointer, a bible sales person. Pointer presents himself as a selfless, innocent, child of god, type of person. By how highly he spoke, Mrs. Freeman allowed him into her home and invited him to stay for dinner. They were so pleased with the way this young boy presented himself, “he bore me to death but he was so sincere and genuine I couldn’t be rude to him. He was good country people, you know”, (O’Connor 357).
This is highly helpful because it gives the appearance of a real Christian. Just like Hulga, he tried manipulating his way into their home, “I got this heart condition. I may not live long. When you know it’s something wrong with you and you may not live long”, (O’Connor 355). By lying about his heart condition, he’s trying to relate to Joy so she would be empathetic towards him, so he could get closer to his goal of deception. Pointer is not who he says he is. The bible is a symbol of faith and morality. He seduces Joy and tricks her, takes her into a barn. Pointer takes control of the situation after he convinces Joy to let him take off her wooden leg. Joy feels very uncomfortable and begs pointer to put her leg back on. He reaches for his valise and pulls a bible out, “It was hollow and contained a pocket flask of whiskey, a pack of cards, and a small blue box with printing on it.” (O’Connor 362).
Instead of this object representing faith and/or morality, the valise accommodated sins. This is a symbol of hypocrisy. As soon as Joy realized she was being fooled she yet again continued begging for her wooden leg. Stepping away with her leg he said, “I’ve gotten a lot of interesting things”, “One time I got a woman’s glass eye this way.” (O’Connor 362).
Flannery O’Connor, also uses symbolism in the choice of names, it reaches a point of irony. These names center around the personality of the characters. Hulga, once known as Joy, simply changed her name because it was the ugliest she could think of. Mrs. Freeman’s name is ironic because she is burdened by the land that she works, so is not really free. Mrs. Hopewell’s name is also ironic, because she tries to provide hope, but is in fact empty in her talk.
My primary response to the story’s title is that the short story was going to be about a happy family that lived in the country. At the start, it seemed as if anybody that was from the country were “good” and never did anything wrong throughout their entire life.