Why does Flannery O'Conner use violence in her story "Good Country People" to get the attention of both readers & characters?  Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In O'Connor's stories, grace often comes at the moment of violence or even grisly death.  This theme of the grotesque serves a clear purpose for Flannery O'Connor. Critic Gilbert H. Muller states that this use of the grotesque is not gratuitous; rather it is employed in order "to reveal underlying and ssentially theological concepts."

This concept of what Muller terms "displacement" is evinced in "Good Country People" as Hulga rejects all the platitudes of the "good country people," feeling herself superior to them because of her education.  But, to the others, Hulga is perceived as a freak because of her attitude and her artificial leg.  Yet, she ends up becoming a kind of Christ figure, a reminder of the "presence of the unseen, mysterious God."  For, like Christ she is made a victim by one of the "good country people," the bible salesman.  When Hulga loses her leg, she is freed from her nihilism as she learns about evil.  O'Connor herself wrote,

I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace...This idea that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerabl cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world. (from Everything That Rises Must Converge)

Thus, the act of violence against Hulga returns her to the reality that there are other educations which she has missed, that all country people are not to be taken lightly. So, in losing her negative philosophy, Hulga finds her way back to beliefs in good and evil. Violence frees the soul of the person so that he/she can receive grace; this action of grace in territor normally occupied by the devil shakes the reader to attention to the message of Flannery O'Connor.

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Good Country People

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