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Good Country People | Study Guide

Flannery O'Connor

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Good Country People | Quotes


Mrs. Hopewell thought of her as a child though she was thirty-two years old.


Rather than accept the fact of her daughter's missing leg and adjust her expectations to align with reality, Mrs. Hopewell lives in denial. By thinking of her daughter as still a child, she can ignore the fact that Hulga grew up not being able to dance or take part in ordinary activities with her peers. This attitude also causes Mrs. Hopewell to see Hulga's negativity as childhood moodiness and attention seeking rather than as the effects of trauma or low self-esteem.


They were good country people.


The titular phrase "good country people" is first applied by Mrs. Hopewell to the Freemans, her tenant farmers. For Mrs. Hopewell, "good country people" have stereotypical character traits such as living a simple life, being guided by moral principles, and being "the salt of the earth." Mrs. Hopewell distinguishes between good country people and "trash." However, the story makes it clear that the people Mrs. Hopewell thinks are good country people aren't so. Manley Pointer, in fact, is a con man, liar, and predator. Mrs. Freeman is a busybody who is fascinated by other people's pain and suffering.


Nothing is perfect. This was one of Mrs. Hopewell's favorite sayings.


Mrs. Hopewell relies on many trite sayings, including this one. However, although Mrs. Hopewell claims that "Nothing is perfect" and "Everybody is different," she cannot accept that her own daughter is imperfect and different. In a story in which most people aren't what they seem, characters also say clichéd things that don't reflect what they really believe.


If you want me, here I am—LIKE I AM.


Hulga has a deep need for acceptance just as she is, but her mother, Mrs. Hopewell, does nothing but find fault with her. Mrs. Hopewell's hopes and expectations for her daughter do not match up with her daughter's reality, causing resentment and anger in Hulga.


She saw it as the name of her highest creative act.


At age 21, Hulga changed her name from Joy to Hulga. She sees this act as creative because it wrested control of her identity away from her mother and created a new identity of her own choosing. She is proud to have turned her old self, Joy, into Hulga, but clearly this name brings her no real joy either.


I keep my Bible by my bedside.

Mrs. Hopewell

Although Mrs. Hopewell sees herself as being a fundamentally good person, helping people and never being impolite, here she tells a blatant lie. Her Bible is really in the attic, not by her bedside. This helps make the point that the people who seem "good" also have flaws, make mistakes, and commit sins. And whatever good she might derive from her Bible, it is too far away from her now.


I like girls that wear glasses.

Manley Pointer

This seems like a compliment that Manley Pointer offers Hulga, suggesting he likes smart girls or ones that are not vain. However, it foreshadows a sinister twist at the end of the story, as Pointer takes Hulga's glasses off and refuses to give them back, then brags about stealing artificial body parts from women.


True genius can get an idea across even to an inferior mind.


Hulga's sense of herself is that she is far more intelligent and worldly than the other characters. She's been to university and has achieved the highest level of education. Those around her are rural folk who do not understand or care about philosophy—at least academically. When she meets Manley Pointer, who she thinks is a simple, Christian country boy, she fantasizes about seducing him to force him to see the world her way. She plans to cause him to feel remorse and shame in order to get her philosophical ideas into his "inferior mind." As the story continues, it turns out she is quite wrong about him.


Without the leg she felt entirely dependent on him.


Hulga is not as strong and independent as she likes to think. She is deeply wounded and broken. Her wooden leg provides an artificial strength and stability. When it is taken away, her true, more vulnerable self is left behind. Manly Pointer asserts his control when she is in this vulnerable state.


I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!

Manley Pointer

Hulga is an atheist and a nihilist—she believes in nothing and that there is no meaning to life. She intended to convince Manly Pointer of this through her seduction. However, he turns the tables on her. He is only masquerading as a Christian and good country boy. In reality, he is a drinker, a gambler, and a womanizer. His assertion that he's believed in nothing his whole life—hence his immoral behavior—shows that he, not Hulga, is the true and most dangerous nihilist the author can imagine. It will take someone of his strength to get through to a character as delusional as Hulga.

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