In Flannery O'Connor's short story "Good Country People," what ironies does Joy/Hulga not realize about herself?

Expert Answers info

vangoghfan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write2,994 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Joy “Hulga” Hopewell is one of the most ironic characters ever created by Flannery O’Connor, an author who loved irony of almost every kind. One of the most ironic aspects of Hulga (one of the main characters in “Good Country People”) is that she understands herself so little, even though she prides herself on her wide reading and deep knowledge.  Examples of such irony include the following:

  • Hulga realizes that she has a “weak heart” physically, but she has no idea just how weak her heart is spiritually and in terms of compassion and concern for other people.
  • At one point, Hulga exclaims to her mother,

“Woman! Do you ever look inside? Do you ever look inside and see what you are not? God!”

The irony here is exceptional: of course, it is really Hulga who never looks inside and Hulga who has no idea what she is not. It is also Hulga who fails to realize that she isn't God -- a pun O'Connors' phrasing here permits.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial