Compare Flannery O'Connor's characters: Joy-Hulga in "Good Country People" and Mary Grace in "Revelation."

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Flannery O’Connor’s Roman Catholic beliefs color her stories which include violence and violent people alongside the faith and grace found by many of her characters. “Good Country People” and “Revelation” have at their core grotesque figures who struggle in a harsh world.  Often, in her stories, O’Connor uses a grotesque character alongside of one who is far more outrageous.

Two characters---Jo-Hulga Hopewell in “Good Country People” and Mary Grace in “Revelation”---are two of the outlandish characters that O’Connor uses to demonstrate to the world the importance of grace and redemption.  In their respective stories, Joy and Mary Grace have some similarities but also contrast in their ages and roles in the stories.   

Joy, an older woman, begins the story as a miserable, self-conscious woman who has a Ph.D. When she was a child, Joy literally had her leg shot off.  She claims to be an atheist. 

Joy’s counterpart is a Bible salesman who places her in an unusual situation: he wants to make love to her.  To prove her love for him, Manley Pointer asks her to take off her prosthetic leg and show it to him. Pointer steals her leg and her glasses and leaves her up in the barn loft.

It is then that Joy-Hulga must question her atheistic stance.  She will never be the same.  The author writes:

“…the girl was left, sitting on the straw in the dusty sunlight.  When she turned her churning faced toward the opening, she saw his blue figure struggling successfully over the green speckled lake.”

Joy-Hulga's  moment of grace  occurs as a result of Pointer's betrayal of her.  Things will never be the same for Joy-Hulga. One way or another, she is affected by the man’s cynicism and her openness to hurt.

Mary Grace in “Revelation” also has a self-concept problem.  A fat, ugly girl with acne who is about eighteen or nineteen—Mary Grace attends Wellesley College.  The girl is obviously unhappy and wears a permanent frown.  She and her mother have a contentious relationship which makes the girl a walking -time bomb.  Her counterpart enters the doctor’s office in the form of Mrs. Turpin, a large, middle-aged lady, who is a judgmental person.

Through her banter, Mrs. Turpin immediately becomes the focus of Mary Grace’s scowls and faces.  Mrs. Turpin tries to enter into a conversation with the miserable girl with an unusual result: the girl throws her book and hits the lady on the head; then, Mary Grace begins to try to choke her.  The nurse and doctor sedate the girl, but not before her eyes roll back in her head.  This indicates that the girl may be epileptic which might explain the odd behavior prior to the seizure.

The older lady asks the girl what she has to say to her:

The girl raised her head. Her gaze locked with Mrs. Turpin’s. “Go back to hell where you come from you old wart hog.”

It is not Mary Grace who has the moment of grace in this story but rather she is the one who sets Mrs. Turpin on the path to her epiphany.  Mary Grace’s  derogatory statement to the older lady made Mrs. Turpin spent time thinking about her racist remarks first with hurt, then anger, and finally with understanding.  She even has a vision of heaven.

Read the study guide:
Good Country People

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question