Themes and Meanings
Flannery O’Connor clearly designed “Good Country People” as a shockingly ironic story. Hulga is the prototypical O’Connor character whose pride and selfishness come to her only in the midst of a violent or shocking revelation. Hulga regards herself as aloof from the “good country people” among whom she lives; imbibing of philosophy and its contemplation of “deeper questions,” Hulga sees herself as liberating people from their illusions, believing she has none of her own.
Manley Pointer serves as the agent for her self-discovery. Pointer at first appears to be a crude, otherworldly Fundamentalist and Hulga’s mission is to strip away his Christian principles by seducing him in the hayloft. She is, however, completely fooled by his impersonation; it is she who is “taken in” and in the end, it is she who wants to be reassured that Pointer is “just good country people.” Instead, Pointer reveals himself as a country existentialist, living for the moment, unaffected by the pretensions that govern Hulga’s private illusions.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Freeman stands out as the only character in the story who “sees through” the illusions of the Hopewell household. She knows her place in the economy of the household and hers is the final comment in the story. When she says “some can’t be as simple” as Pointer, she means that she herself could never fall prey to the flimflam antics to which Mrs. Hopewell and Hulga have succumbed.