How does the title "Good Country People" apply to the characters in the story?

Expert Answers
kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Flannery O'Connor's 1955 story, "Good Country People," can be considered slightly ahead of its time for the cynicism and irony implied by its title and by its portrayal of the characters Mrs Hopewell and Manley Pointer.  A devoutly Christian woman and her educated, atheist, physically disabled daughter, Joy, welcomes the Bible-carrying Manley into her and Joy's life.  Impressed by this "Christian" Bible salesman, Mrs. Hopewell refers to him as "good country people," unaware of Manley's true nature.  That true nature is revealed when, at a picnic with Joy, who harbors plans of seducing the presumably virginal Bible salesman, Manley removes from his hollowed-out Bible condemns, whiskey and sexually-explicit photographs.

[There] were only two Bibles in it.  He took one of these out and opened the cover of it.  It was hollow and contained a pocket flask of whiskey, a pack of cards, and a small blue box with printing on it.  He laid these out in front of her....

The Freeman daughters who live nearby, and whose mother is a tenant farmer, are similarly questionable representatives of the meaning of the phrase used as the story's title.  The younger one is a pregnant teenager and the older daughter known for her friendliness with individuals of the other gender.  Clearly, the mythical world in which Mrs. Hopewell prefers to exist is not present in her reality.

The use of the phrase and title "Good Country People" is clearly intended to be ironic, in that the more saintly character turns out to be anything but -- a recurring theme in O'Connor's work.

Read the study guide:
Good Country People

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question