In O'Conner's "Good Country People" why are the characters' names significant?

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Concerning names in "Good Country People":

  • Mrs. Freeman's name is ironic because she isn't free--she's a tenant farmer.  Mentally, she is anything but free--she's a simpleton who quotes platitudes and is dangerous because she's so simplistic in her thinking.
  • Mrs. Hopewell's name suggests she sees only good in others, as she sometimes suggests.  Yet, she's actually simplistic and judgmental, focusing on the difference between "good country people" and trash, which, of course, she can't really tell the difference between.
  • Joy/Hulga changes her name to the ugliest name she can find.  The name fits her grotesque appearance and state of mind, but also is a rejection of her mother's way of life. 
  • Manley Pointer uses his manly pointer as bait to seduce and trick Hulga.  His name is phallic, of course.  He is the source of evil that ultimately leads to Hulga's awakening.  Hulga goes to the barn with him because she, too, assumes he is "good country people," demonstrating that she does share her mother's belief.  When Manley tricks her and humiliates her, and points out that is doesn't take a Ph.D to be nihilistic and believe in nothing, her feelings of intellectual superiority are savagely rebuked. 
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Good Country People

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