What kinds of social conflicts are presented in Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People"?
Social contrasts and conflicts of various kinds are depicted or implied in Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Good Country People.” Such conflicts include the following:
- Conflicts or contrasts between the values of conventional young women (such as Mrs. Freeeman’s daughters) and unconventional young women (such as Joy/Hulga).
- Contrasts between the values of “good country people” (such as the Freemans) and “trash” (the kinds of workers Mrs. Hopewell does not want to hire). As the narrator puts it, the reason Mrs. Hopewell had employed the Freemans for such a long time
was that they were not trash. They were good country people.
- Contrasts and conflicts between middle-class people such as Mrs. Hopewell and lower-class people such as the Freemans.
- Conflicts between parents (such as Mrs. Hopewell) who have one set of values and children (such as Joy/Hulga) who have a very different set of values.
- Conflicts between those who like to think of themselves as optimists (such as Mrs. Hopewell) and those who are natural pessimists (such as Joy/Hulga).
- Conflicts between people who are satisfied members of the middle class (such as Mrs. Hopewell) and people who reject middle-class values (such as Joy/Hulga).
- Conflicts between those who are not especially highly educated (such as Mrs. Hopewell) and those who like to consider themselves intellectuals (such as Joy/Hulga).
- Conflicts between those who profess belief in God (such as Manley Pointer) and those who reject religion (such as Joy/Hulga).
In short, O’Connor’s story is a story brimming with conflicts (or potential conflicts) of all sorts, but these are presented in ways that make them seem funny rather than pitiful or tragic. Interestingly enough, in this story, unlike in many others by O'Connors, racial conflicts are not emphasized.