What did Hulga/Joy and Manley Pointer have in common?
One of the ironies of "Good Country People" is how alike Hulga and Manley Pointer are. As Mrs. Freeman states, "Some people are more alike than others," and that applies to Mrs. Hopewell's daughter and the Bible salesman. Here are some of their similarities:
1. Both have an assumed name: Joy has changed her name to Hulga, and Manley Pointer tells Hulga at the end of the story that "Pointer" is not his real name.
2. Both dress oddly: Hulga's favorite outfit is "a six-year-old skirt and a yellow sweat shirt," and Manley wears a "bright blue suit and yellow socks."
3. Both have "a heart condition": Hulga is not expected to live past 45 years of age because of her "weak heart," and Manley informs Mrs. Hopewell that he may not live long because he has "this heart condition," although that was certainly a lie. In each case the physical heart condition represents a spiritual heart condition, however, since each is morally sick.
4. Both think "serious" thoughts; Hulga has her philosophy and derides her mother for "never looking inside," and Manley tells Hulga, "I think a lot."
5. Both are atheists and believe in nothing: Hulga has taken a PhD in philosophy and reads nihilistic writings, and Manley says to Hulga in his parting words, "I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!"
6. Hulga and Manley each plot to seduce the other.
7. Both of them have a sick, twisted sense of humor. Hulga thinks her ugly sweatshirt is funny and thinks her plan to seduce Manley is "a great joke." Manley tells stupid jokes to Mrs. Hopewell and Hulga, and he no doubt thinks his fake Bible, his fake deck of cards, and his stealing Hulga's leg are quite funny as well.
By the time readers get to the end of the story, it has become quite clear that neither Hulga nor Manley is "good country people."