Who does O'Connor admire and satirize in "Good Country People"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In "Good Country People," Flannery O'Connor satirizes certain qualities in human nature such as pretension, and she admires "a sense of being" achieved through a redemptive experience.

"Foolishness of intellectual pretensions"

Joy, the daughter of Mrs. Hopewell who changes her name to Hulga because it is ugly and suggests her rejection of everything connected to what her mother believes in, perceives her name as "her highest creative act,.... one of her major triumphs," along with believing in nothing.

Her sense of superiority, however, is brought low by Manley Pointer who lures her into the hayloft and steals her artificial leg after seducing her and having her remove this leg so that she cannot leave the hayloft. Clearly, O'Connor satirizes this educated girl who allows herself to be tricked by a bible salesman.

Redemptive experiences

One day Mrs. Hopewell comes across one of Hulga's books and reads from it:

If science is right, then one thing stands firm:  science wishes to know nothing of nothing.  Such is after all the strictly scientific approach to Nothing.  We know it by wishing to know nothing of Nothing.

Hulga, she finds, believes in nothing.  But, after her experience with Manley Pointer, Hulga finds that her belief that she has no illusions and she "see[s] through to nothing" is not true, for she has been deluded by another. Consequently, the young woman who believes in nothing, attains a knowledge of evil and is, thus, able to attain salvation, an achievement that is, indeed, admirable.


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