In "Good Country People ," Mrs. Hopewell and her daughter Hulga both think of themselves as being superior to lower-class people. For Mrs. Hopwell, it's her money that sets her apart, and for Hulga, it's her education. Hulga has a PhD, which contributes to her vanity and air of...
In "Good Country People," Mrs. Hopewell and her daughter Hulga both think of themselves as being superior to lower-class people. For Mrs. Hopwell, it's her money that sets her apart, and for Hulga, it's her education. Hulga has a PhD, which contributes to her vanity and air of superiority; as an atheist, she believes herself to be above those who still believe in God, especially her mother.
Hulga and Mrs. Hopewell perpetuate the stereotype that lower-class people are simple. They subscribe to the idea that their money and education automatically makes them smarter. Mrs. Hopewell looks kindly upon people such as Mrs. Freeman and Manley Pointer because she believes that they are "good country people" who are "simple" but hardworking and kind, not like the people she considers trash. Her attitude towards them is motherly but patronizing. However, for Hulga, having religious beliefs is just as bad as being uneducated.
But for all their money and education, neither women knows anything about people and human behavior. Manley recognizes this instantly. He plays up his lack of education and missionary dreams to garner sympathy from Mrs. Hopewell. Manley later seduces Hulga in the barn loft, and in doing so, steals her wooden leg. He then reveals himself to be a conman and an atheist, much to the astonishment of Hulga who cannot believe she was outsmarted by someone she thought wasn't nearly as intelligent as herself.
At the story's end, Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman watch Manley leave, and Mrs. Hopewell remarks about how simple she found him. Mrs. Freeman says, "Some can't be that simple . . . I know I never could," hinting that Mrs. Freeman knows that Manley is a con.
O'Connor makes the point in her story that class, money, and education are not symbols of intelligence. In this case, the middle-class are the ones who are truly simple. Manley understands their weakness and uses it to his advantage. Hulga's atheism stems from her education; her extensive education taught her that religion is false and only those who have studied as much as she can understand that. Manley shows that intelligence and atheism are not exclusive to the highly educated.