What ways do you expect Hulga or Joy to change after her Manely P. experience?

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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When Manley Pointer steals Hulga's leg, he steals her identity, her beliefs and part of her soul. The wooden leg has been what has made her unique, but also one of Flannery O'Connor's characteristic "grotesque" characters. Hulga's belief system, however, has been very negative - she firmly believes in "Nothing" so the irony of Manley Pointer stealing her leg is that he steals "Nothing" from her. That leaves a clean slate for her to accept grace, to replace "Nothing" with something positive. Hulga has placed so much of who she is in that wooden leg, but so much of who she is, is a negative young woman full of pride, who thinks she is better than everyone else. With the stealing of the leg, Manley Pointer is actually doing her a favor. Now that she no longer has the basis of her belief in "Nothing" she is open to believe in something, and this would be grace and love.

O'Connor's Catholic faith taught her that mankind had to be humbled and had to get rid of pride before being redeemed, and often she brings her characters to the point of death before they realize this (like the grandmother in "A Good Man is Hard to Find") but in this story, Hulga is not killed, but she comes face to face with her sin, and she has the chance to be redeemed. She has a chance to choose JOY over the other ugly name she chose for herself, HULGA.

When Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman see the Bible salesman leaving in the distance, they both say that he was simple. Mrs. Hopewell says "He was so simple, but I guess the world would be better off if we were all that simple." O'Connor was a Bible student, and she knew that in the Bible, Jesus tells everyone that if they want to enter the kingdom of heaven, they must be like little children, i.e. "simple" and "innocent". When Hulga has her leg stolen, Pointer forces her to revert back to this state, and she now can start over again if she wishes.

Do you think she WILL change? Ah, that is a rhetorical question and I have given you some background so that you can answer this question for yourself. My view, which is purely extrapolating, is that Hulga has not died, and she is going to have to rely on people to get her down from that barn loft where Manley Pointer left her. She is helpless, so let's hope her experience WILL change her, will humble her, and turn her back into JOY. O'Connor probably would have hoped for the best for Joy, so we can, too. We can pretend her mother finds her after several hours, and while she is up in the barn loft, she will reevaluate her life and realize what a stinker she has been. Then, she will become Joy Hopewell ("hoping" to be "well" again).

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