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This is a good discussion board question since you will get varying opinions.
I do not believe that Hulga deserved to be taken advantage of and violated by having her leg stolen by the bible salesman, no. Hulga clearly had her own issues that she needed to address, including being gullible. However, she did not deserve to be lied to and manipulated for cruel purposes. Hulga was too trusting of the bible salesman and should have realized that it was not a good idea to be with him that day. However, we all have done things without thinking them through first, so hindsight is 20/20, as the saying goes.
The reader has the feeling by the end of the story that Hulga has learned a very valuable lesson about trust, vulnerability, and intentions.
I agree with the idea that no one deserves to be robbed of something as precious and valuable as a leg. Hulga is also robbed of her innocence, which maybe was fitting and deserved. If this is true, it is only true because she had been so smugly confident that her views were accurate and those of her mother were not.
Perhaps, she was proven right in thinking that the world is an ugly place and there is no use in pretending otherwise. In going to the barn with Manley, Hulga was not trying to prove that the world was beautiful or good. Rather, she was proving that her power in the world is secure because her vision is clear.
Obviously, she was wrong. Her vision is not clear. That does not mean she deserved to have her leg stolen though. Nothing Hulga did excuses Manley's actions.
Wow, I guess I have a lot more sympathy for Joy/Hulga. She needed an explanation for her life and the way it has played out...remember, no hope there--just a heart condition and a wooden leg to go with that fancy education. (And what is education really except a deposit down on a better future--which she is denied by her heart condition). Sure she's really a pain to her mother and to the judgemental Mrs. Freeman, but she's in pain (not literally...I don't think...) and isn't blaming God, or trusting Him for an answer she knows won't come. Instead she chooses to abandon the belief in a God that would let her life be what it is. She gets rid of the blame, but not the anger--forgetting that those beliefs brought positive things as well (morals, etc.) that she would be abandoning as well.
No one deserves to be conned like Hulga was, but had she not been so haughty toward those with less education than she, perhaps she would not have been in the situation in the first place.
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