In the story "Good Country People" by Flannery O'Connor, who was the admirable one and the hero?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As in many of Flannery O'Connor's stories, "Good Country People" has no real hero and no character is particularly admirable. Mrs. Freeman, who is the first person introduced in the story, has many flaws, among which is that she is "the nosiest woman ever to walk the earth." Her macabre interest in the accident that took Joy's leg is another quality that is less than admirable. Hulga/Joy is proud, pessimistic, rude, and perverse. Manley Pointer, the counterfeit Bible salesman, is anything but a hero. Rather, he is a grotesque collector of stolen prostheses. His deception, cruelty, and immorality peg him as the villain in the story.

If anyone could be said to be the hero, or to have admirable traits, it would be Mrs. Hopewell. Joy's mother seems to truly love her daughter and want the best for her. She is also patient with Mrs. Freeman's idiosyncrasies and is hospitable and sympathetic toward Manley Pointer. However, what appear to be Mrs. Hopewell's strengths are shown to be weaknesses. Her optimism, her ability to "hope well" about people, proves to be naivete, and her patience with Mrs. Freeman's nosiness and intrusion into her family's privacy irritates Hulga, probably driving a bigger wedge between mother and daughter. Like the others in the story, Mrs. Hopewell is dishonest, lying to Manley about the location of her Bible. She allows her thirty-year-old daughter to behave like a spoiled child—indeed, she thinks of her as a child and has no ability to set reasonable expectations of her daughter, which makes their home life consistently unpleasant. Although Mrs. Hopewell "never liked to be taken for a fool," she is completely hoodwinked by Manley Pointer's story. So although Mrs. Hopewell seems to have more redeeming qualities than the other characters in the story, she has her own set of unresolved issues. The lack of a hero, not uncommon in a Flannery O'Connor story, serves to reinforce the story's theme of flawed human nature.

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Good Country People

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