Where is the foreshadowing of what will ultimately happen to Hulga?what hints are there to suggest that she's really just hiding the facade of her education and intelligence? "Good Country...

Where is the foreshadowing of what will ultimately happen to Hulga?

what hints are there to suggest that she's really just hiding the facade of her education and intelligence?

"Good Country People" by Flannery O'Connor

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People" is a story of the foolhardiness of intellectual pretensions and the odd redemption of a young lady through her encounter with violence.  Joy, who changes her name to Hulga, is the grotesque of this Southern Gothic story who in an ironic twist finds herself victimized when she has herself set out to exploit a young man. 

There are several suggestions of the susceptibility of Joy to the traveling Bible salesman that effects her redemption:

  • While she has changed her name to Hulga, the ugliest she can think of, her doing so is more a show of bravado than anything because when Mrs. Freeman uses the name, 

big spectacled Joy-Hulga would scowl and redden as if her privacy had been intruded upon.  She considered the name her personal affair.....She saw it as the name of her highest creative act.

  • While Joy considers herself an intellectual and Mrs. Hopewell, her mother, recognizes her as brillant, Mrs. Hopewell feels that her daughter "didn't have a grain of sense."
  • Even Joy/Hulga inadvertently indicates her own weakness when she becomes angered and blurts out to her mother,

Do you ever look inside and see what you are not?....we are not our own light.

  • These lines are foreshadowing of the delusions of Joy/Hulga who will reach redemption by seeing what she is not in the violence perpetuated against her by Manley Pointer.
  • Her intellectualism and degree in philosophy leave Joy/Hulga vulnerable as she considers herself superior to others,

She looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity.

  • But, as one of her books reads, Joy/Hulga embraces the approach of Nihilism:

"We know it by wishing to know nothing of Nothing," Joy quotes

  • Joy foolishly thinks that she will seduce Manley Pointer in order to berate him and expose his religious hypocrisy, but, of course, Manley turns her plan around by stealing her leg.  This reversal is foreshadowed by Mrs. Freeman's remark,

"Some people are more alike than others."

  • For, ironically like Manley, as Joy/Hulga considers her date of the next day as she lies in bed, she begins to think of it "as a great joke" because she feels that things are but "a matter of the mind's control."
  • When Manley Pointer slips her glasses into his pocket and Joy/Hulga "didn't realize he had taken her glasses," there is sharp foreshadowing of his worst act.  Ironically, then, she tells Manley,

"I don't have illusions. I'm one of those people who see through to nothing!

"We are all damned...but some of us have taken off our blindfolds and see that there's nothing to see.  It's a kind of salvation."

  • Above all, Helga is sensitive about the artificial leg "as a peacock about his tail."


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Good Country People

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