Compare and contrast Joy/Hugla and Laura Wingfield. How are these characters a like and how are they different."Good Country People" by Flannery O'Connor The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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While both Joy/Hulga of Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People" and Laura Winglfield of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie are two young handicapped women entrapped in lives of discontent and they do share some other similarities, there are yet many differences between them.  


Both Hulga and Laura have something wrong with their legs that affects many of their attitudes.  Hulga compensates for her disability by acquiring an education so that she can be superior intellectually.  However, Laura lets her crippled leg make her feel inferior.  She is always self-conscious and is submissive to her mother and uncomfortable with others such as Jim O'Connor as she feels inferior because her leg.

Personality and family relationship

Clearly much more of an individual than Laura Wingfield, Joy renames herself Hulga to express her disdain for her mother; with her education--a PhD.--she feels herself superior to her mother and Mrs. Hopewell.  Her arrogance, however, makes her vulnerable to Manley Pointer, who subtly manipulates her.  When he steals her artificial leg, he takes her identity.  Nevertheless, Hulga's experience leaves her open to believe in something else besdes the nothingness that she has embraced.  For Hulga, faith is simple when she is open to it as she can be at the end of the story. 

Laura, too, has an identity problem, but she withdraws in her paralyzing shyness into the past, listening to the records of her father and cleaning and toying with her fragile glass menagerie.  She is unable to acquire any education beyond high school as she is so timid that she cannot learn to type at the Rubicund Business College.  Totally dominated by her mother, who refuses to recognize her attempts at self-expression when Laura explains that she enjoyed going to the museums and zoo instead of the business school,  Laura lives at home subjugated to the desires of her mother and conflicts of her brother. However, when Jim O'Connor, the gentleman caller, recognizes her as the girl in whom he was interested in while at high school, he gives Laura some hope as he mitigates her problems by saying that all she needs is confidence.  But, when Tom abandons the family, poor Laura is unlikely to find love and fulfillment.  Looking in at her, Tom bids her goodbye, telling her "Blow out your candles, Laura...."


The hostile Hulga rejects all belief in anything and finds solice in her vain intellectualism.  Ironically, she is saved as her moment of ephiphany comes when Manley Pointer, the bible salesman proves himself evil.  As is typical of O'Connor's stories, the moment of faith is often accompanied by the grotesque.

On the other hand, the meek and conciliatory Laura achieves no salvation from her life although she is dressed for the "gentleman caller" as though she were the Madonna with Amanda, her mother, kneeling adjusts the hem "devout and ritualistic."   For, the "holy candles in the altar of Laura's face have been snuffed out" [Williams's stage directions] when Jim reveals that he is engaged, but comes to dinner because Tom has invited him.

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