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What are the similarities between "Good Country People" and Nathaniel Hawthorne's "My...

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tonantzin | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 17, 2010 at 7:38 AM via web

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What are the similarities between "Good Country People" and Nathaniel Hawthorne's "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"?

 

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted October 18, 2010 at 12:51 AM (Answer #1)

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In the Hawthorne short story, the main character, Robin, comes from the country to seek out his relative, Major Molineux, in hopes that this relative can help him find work. Robin is a type of "good country people" coming to the city for the first time, but being very naive. When people brush him off when he asks about Major Molineaux, he acts like Joy/Hulga in the O'Connor short story - assuming that he is superior to everyone else and that the townspeople are inferior and rude, or as Joy/Hulga might refer to them, "white trash" - NOT "good country people." The story is ironic, however, because the Major is an unpopular British official who is in the process of being tarred and feathered, as Robin soon learns. In the O'Connor short story, Joy/Hulga winds up being duped by a con-man Bible salesman who she thinks she is going to seduce, but who winds up seducing her. The Bible salesman robs her of her most precious possession, her wooden leg, a symbol of what makes her different and, in a way, superior. In the Hawthorne short story, the truth robs Robin of his baseless superiority because he ultimately does not want to align himself with his kinsman at the end of the story.

In both stories, the protagonists learn lessons about themselves. Robin learns that in the city, he is a very different person than in the country. In the O'Connor story, Joy/Hulga lives among "good country people" but she is an outsider who fancies herself above all of them. In the end, she learns the hard way that she is really not superior to anyone and allows herself to fall for the biggest con around - a man who pretends to want her, but just wants something from her. He collects bizarre trophies, such as Joy/Hulga's wooden leg.

None of the people in the O'Connor story are really "good country people" and in the Hawthorne story, none of the people in the city are "good" so he returns home to the "good country". The idea of "country people" is a motif in both stories, but it is handled in two entirely different ways.

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