Besides the meaning in the story, what is the actual meaning of Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People"?
"Good Country People" is one of O'Connor's most famous stories and different readers will find different meanings in this work.
The story certainly seems to have a lot to say about appearances. The work's central character is named Joy, but she certainly does not seem to be a very joyful person. In fact, she has changed her name to Hulga, which sounds a lot like the words "hulk" or "ugly."
Manley Pointer is a Bible salesman, but he knows very little about the Bible and in reality behaves more like an incarnation of the Devil than one would expect a Bible salesman to behave. Indeed, he cannot even pronounce the word "Christian" correctly.
Whereas Manley Pointer does not appear to be very intelligent, Joy-Hulga (like O'Connor herself) is a highly educated woman. Joy-Hulga assumes that her intelligence will easily defeat that of Manley Pointer, whom she regards as a simpleton.
Ultimately, though, Joy-Hulga learns that she should not judge a book salesman by his "cover." Manley Pointer tricks Joy-Hulga and steals her wooden leg.
Even as Pointer flees the farm with the wooden leg, Joy's mother does not realize what a wicked fellow he is:
“Why, that looks like that nice dull young man that tried to sell me a Bible yesterday,” Mrs. Hopewell said, squinting. “He must have been selling them to the Negroes back in there. He was so simple,” she said, “but I guess the world would be better off if we were all that simple.”
Thus, while O'Connor's story will have a variety of interpretations, one of the central themes of the work appears to be about the need to look at people in a way that goes beyond just the superficial.