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Flannery O'Connor's writing is full of meaning and symbolism that is "hidden in plain sight" as it is woven into a seamless narrative. One of O'Connor's favorite character types is the intellectual or the pseudo-intellectual who believes that she can control her life and control others. Such a character is Joy/Ulga. In her nihilism, she rejects the name of Joy as frivolous, and takes the unappealing name of Ulga because she has lost the joy of spiritualism and replaced it with vain intellectualism. She also chooses the name Ulga as a rejection of her mother and the platitudes she recites daily.
Believing herself superior to the "good country people" pointed out by her mother, Mrs. Hopewell, and the woman who works for her, Mrs. Freeman, Ulga sets out to prove her superiority by controlling Manley Pointer (pointed out as "good country people"), an itinerant Bible salesman. One evening she plans a meeting with him in the barn, and they climb to the loft where Manley with eyes "like two steel spikes" steals her leg after convincing her to remove it. Without her leg, Ulga feels vulnerable and hopeless because she lacks any faith. She shouts at Manley,
"You're a fine Christian! You're just like them all--say one thing and do another."
He replies to her, "...you ain't so smart. I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!"
With his violent act of stealing her leg, Manley provides Ulga the chance to accept grace and spirituality now and benefit from this humiliation; then she can truly become Joy.
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