I agree that the central conflict in the novel is between Hulga and Pointer Manley. Hulga and Pointer both believe they are superior to the "good country people" all around them. Hulga, who has a fake leg and does her best to be disagreeable, feels she is superior because she has been north and has a PhD in philosophy. Manley feels he his superior because he can easily hoodwink gullible people into thinking he is nothing but a stupid country hick selling Bibles, when in fact, he is a hard-drinking atheist who enjoys deceiving those around him in cruel ways.
The two face off when they go off together. Hulga is planning to sexually seduce Manley, who she thinks is an innocent rube who will be impressed by her superior knowledge. Meanwhile, Manley is planning to seduce Hulga and triumph over her for feeling superior to him.
In the end, Manley wins the contest. He is clearly more sophisticated and willing to be ruthless and deceptive than Hulga could have imagined. She realizes too late that...
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