In the short story "Good Country People," how do the names of the characters symbolically represent thematic contrasts in the story, and what exactly is Hulga's greatest handicap?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mrs. Hopewell's last name represents her optimism, Christian beliefs, and good faith in people. She seems to barely perceive that evil exists in the world or that Manley Pointer is anything but the good country man he claims to be.

Hulga renamed herself as such because she feels an ugly name better reflects how rotten reality is as well as how she feels about herself (she is self-conscious about her wooden leg). She claims to be a nihilist, as in a person who believes life is meaningless and absurd. Her real name is Joy, but she rejects any idea of goodness. She prefers to stew in misery and cynicism. When Bible salesman Manley Pointer appears, she takes his naive, good-natured facade at face value and tries to seduce him in order to prove that goodness does not exist and that Manley's religiosity is a brittle sham.

Manley Pointer turns out to be the villain of the piece. Unlike Hulga, he is a true nihilist and quite amoral. His full name is a phallic pun , referring to how he is the one...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 715 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team