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Flannery O'Conner

Flannery O'Conner - I Know Only That I Know Nothing There...

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I Know Only That I Know Nothing There are few things valued in a society higher than truth and integrity. Many authors have tried to convey these principles with an in-depth personification of their characters and situations. This is a typical stylized format for Flannery O’Conner. In “Good Country People” Flannery O’Conner manages to take the world’s perception of itself and turn it upside down in an attempt show that everything people perceive about truth and morals is ill construed or misunderstood. Flannery O’Conner uses names, space, metaphors and the general actions of characters to show the idea of self-deceit and the deceit of others. The first character Flannery O’Conner introduces is Mrs. Hopewell, whose title of “Mrs.,” would suggest that she is married. Although, this title is typically associated with married women, “Mrs. Hopewell … had divorced her husband long ago” (2531). This is only the first glimpse that Mrs. Hopewell gives a false image of herself to the public. Another glimpse into Mrs. Hopewell’s character occurs when the narrator gives several of Mrs. Hopewell’s favorite lines, such as, “Nothing is perfect” and “well other people have their opinions to” (2530). Numerous statements by Mrs. Hopewell appear throughout “Good Country People,” which give a reference to her character. These are given in the beginning as a possible omen to Mrs. Hopewell’s true nature. Of the latter of these two remarks the narrator even says, “The most important, was.” This is Flannery O’Conner’s way of saying “pay attention here.” With these remarks the initial impression of Mrs. Hopewell is, one of a kind and loving person with an open mind and honest heart; however, her perception and lack of acceptance of her own daughter disproves this notion. The first evidence of this appears when the narrator says, “Mrs. Hopewell
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liked to tell people Glynese and Carramae were two of the finest girls she knew and that Mrs. Freeman was a ‘ lady’ and that she was never ashamed to take her anywhere or introduce her to anybody they might meet” (2530). Mrs. Hopewell believes Joy is sub-par to that of the Freeman daughters. Another example of Mrs. Hopewell’s lack of acceptance toward her daughter occurs when she says to Joy, “If you can’t come pleasantly, I don’t want you at all” (2531). This is in contrast to her hypocritical version that “nothing is perfect.” Mrs. Hopewell seems to be suggesting that she does not want to except her daughter’s imperfections accept on her own terms. Another point of contention between the two women is that Joy has a Ph.D. in Philosophy. The fact that Joy had not only “gone through” school, but got a degree in an area “that had ended with the Greeks and Romans,” also implies that she wanted Joy take a more conventional route to education, or in other words, on Mrs. Hopewell’s own terms (2532-2533).
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