In "Good Country People",how significant are the names O'Connor gives her characters in it?

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Hulga" was christened "Joy" but changed her name since it didn't fit her.  Her attitude is one of bitter discontent and loathsome tolerance of those around her with lesser brains and intelligence.  She is named by her mother, "Mrs. Hopewell" who does "hope well" that Joy will be successful,sweet, and will find some purpose in life.

Mrs. Hopewell is simple and optimistic.  She represents the attitude of the good country people by facing challenges with a cheerful outlook and hoping for the best outcome.  This drives Joy/Hulga nuts, and points out one theme in the book:  the moral ugliness of mankind.  Joy/Hulga never looks on the bright side, doesn't have faith in anything but intelligence and education, and treats all who don't measure up with a horrid disdain.

Manley Pointer comes along to seal the deal.  His name indicates that he is "Manly" enough for Joy/Hulga and that he is "pointing" toward something.  He is selling Bibles, but the fact that he has cut out the inside pages of the Bible to hide his flask tells us he is not pointing toward heaven.  He is clever, although Joy/Hulga is too late to figure this out before he runs off with her artificial leg leaving her humiliated in the hayloft.  Again, he represents a moral ugliness in human nature, but he does serve his purpose in teaching Joy/Hulga a lesson--not all the "good country people" are good, and they're not all idiots, either.

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Winter Dreams

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