How is identity a key component in Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People?"

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All of the characters in Flannery O'Connor's short story, "Good Country People," suffer from identity issues. Joy (Hulga) Hopewell particularly is an example of a character trying to reinvent herself. She distances herself as much as possible from her mother, a divorcee who sees and lives life in a most simplistic manner. When Joy loses her leg, she discards her old identity as well; she becomes angry and hateful, changes her name to Hulga (an ugly name), and earns a PhD, in part so she can lord her new-found intellect over her mother. She is the polar opposite of her name, Hope-well, for she has no hopes or dreams of making her life a better one. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hopewell's own simple ways prevent her from understanding or communicating with her daughter. 

Mrs. Freeman, a tenant farmer, makes her living through the assistance of her boss, Mrs. Hopewell; her name--Free-man--receives ironic treatment since she is far from free or self-sustaining. Her daughters, however, give of themselves freely to men: Carramae, 15, is married and pregnant; Glynese, 18, "has many admirers."

Manley Pointer maintains the dual identity of a con man disguised as a do-gooder Bible salesman with a keen eye for weaknesses in other human beings. 

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Good Country People

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