Presentation on theme: "Good Country People Hulga Hopewell Everything is Nothing The realities of experience outrun all possibilities of metaphysical speculation."— Presentation transcript:
Good Country People Hulga Hopewell Everything is Nothing The realities of experience outrun all possibilities of metaphysical speculation.
Three Worlds within the story. Farm University Back Country The three form a hierarchy of intellectual sophistication
The Farm Constitutes the norm for human conduct and attitudes. Hulga and Manley are defined as peculiar by the standards of normality. Intellectual Simple
The farm, on the other hand, affirms the literal view of reality. It gives primacy to the realm of fact, to the familiar details of human biology and social experience. Mrs. Freeman’s talk is limited to faithful reports of Carramae’s pregnancy or the talents of Glynese’s boyfriend, an aspiring chiropractor, who pops her neck to cure a sty. Religion is relegated to the attic and is seldom referred to except in properly sanctimonious attitudes.
Philosophy is limited to a familiar round of banal observations that serve to explain all circumstances and account for all needs-- ’Nothing is perfect...that is life!... well, other people have their opinions, too.’ The farm’s attitudes --its ideas--like its daily routines and conversations--are fixed and continue in a comfortable pattern of unbroken repetition.
When Joy (Hula) because of a weak heart (a significant symptom) returns to the farm from the great world of the university to live among the provincials, her scorn is boundless. Having failed in her attempted escape, she now displays her contempt by a studied series of irritations mannerisms and withering comments. She stomps about the house to remind her mother of her daughter’s painful deformity; she changes her name from Joy to Hulga apparently because the latter is the ugliest she can discover; and she repeatedly undercuts the obtuse Mrs. Freeman
Joy’s academic attainments have left her totally unsuited for the life of the farm. Joy’s doctorate, like her name change, signals her renunciation of her old environment and her intent to claim a new role. Mrs Hopewell, however, is perplexed by this new identity, just as she is puzzled by many aspects of joy’s behavior; “You could say, ‘My daughter is a nurse,’ and ‘My daughter is a school teacher,’ or even, ‘My daughter is a chemical engineer.” “You could not say, ‘My daughter is a philosopher.’ That was something that has ended with the Greeks and Romans.’”
Despite Joy’s air of intellectual superiority, Mrs. Hopewell continues to regard her as a mere child. And Mrs. Hopewell also enjoys a keen sense of her own inner worth: ‘Mrs. Hopewell has no bad qualities of her own but she was able to use other people’s in such a constructive way that she never felt the lack.’ As for Mrs. Freeman, she ‘could never be brought to admit herself wrong on any point.’
The story is among other things, an excursion into the follies bred of vanity and pride.
Manley Pointer, the backwoods bible salesman, serves to complete the hierarchy of intellect. He is from far back in the country “not even from a place, just near a place.” Far from giving himself airs, he humbly insists upon his innocence and accuses Mrs. Hopewell of disliking him for it: “I know I’m real simple. I don’t know how to say a thing but to say say it. I’m just a country boy...people like you don’t like to fool with people like me!” Manley piously asserts that he wisher to devote his life to “Chrustian service
The game played out between Manley and Mrs. Hopewell is a foreshadowing of the later game of seduction between Manley and Hulga, and in each instance, the deception extends to both sides. Mrs. Hopewell, who pretends to approve of Manley rural innocence, proves her goodwill by asking him to dinner--am invitation she immediately regrets. She also lies to him by insisting that her Bible is in her bedroom, instead of confessing that her atheist daughter forced to banish the book from sight.
When Hulga sets in motion her cunning plan of seduction, she assumes that her is preparing a union of total sophistication (herself) with total innocence (Manley). She is prepared to deal with Manley’s inevitable guilts after the consummation of the event; “She imagined that she took his remorse in hand and changed it to a deeper understanding of life. She took all his shame away and turned it into something useful” In the barn loft, Hulga explains her philosophy: “I’m one of those people who see through to nothing...WE are all damned...but some of us have taken off our blindfolds and see there’s nothing to see. It’s a kind of salvation.”
Hulga plays the intellectual Eve to this untouched Adam. However, she soon discovers that the country boy is not so simple as he appears. The rustic has come prepared for the outing with whisky, contraceptives, and a pack of pornographic cards which he produces from his hollow Bible. Indeed Hulga is rapidly undeceived as to his true character. when she pleads, ‘Aren’t you...just good county people? “I hope you don’t think I believe this crap! I may sell Bibles but I know which end is up and I wasn’t born yesterday and I know where I’m going.”
Manley Pointer seems well named for his role in the promised union. He is, as well, a connoisseur of the obscene and adds Hulga’s leg to his growing collection of bizarre objects. Hulga’s venture into sexual initiation leads to her spiritual rape. As Manley pops the leg into his valise, he sneers a final taunt. “And I’ll tell you another thing Hulga...you ain’t so smart. I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!”
Hulga is abruptly hurled from the intellectual heights she has so smugly inhabited; Manley is exposed as a disguised villain. Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman are left unchanged in their usual state of self- satisfied ignorance. Mrs. Hopewell, viewing the salesman fleeing across the meadows, reflects, ‘He was so simple...but I guess the world wild be better off if we were all that simple.’
Here as elsewhere in Flannery O’Connor, what distinguishes the modern version of a frontier tale is that her events do not occur in a moral vacuum. Hulga is judged as pride overthrown, but Manley reminds the reader that pure evil persists in the world in all its vulgar attributes. One does not have to have a Ph.D to become the devil’s disciple. Depravity and its rituals are easily learned without benefit of seminar or graduate lecture. And it is to be hoped that Hulga, having mastered the fundamentals of the fact of evil, is now prepared for additional instruction in spiritual reality.