Good Country People Analysis

  • "Good Country People" was written in the style of Southern Gothic literature. Flannery O'Connor is one of the most famous practitioners of the genre, and like most Southern Gothic literature, her stories combine elements of the religious and the grotesque.
  • O'Connor introduces irony into the story through the phrase "good country people," which Mrs. Hopewell uses to describe herself and the characters around her. It's clear, however, that Mrs. Hopewell is not really "good country people," and her preoccupation with social status makes her something of a hypocrite.
  • O'Connor uses the character of Hulga Hopewell to criticize intellectualism and pseudo-intellectualism. Hulga's PhD makes her arrogant and rude, which in turn makes her susceptible to Manley Pointer's lies. Her intellectual vanity is her downfall.

Analysis

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

O’Connor was well-known for her use of the grotesque and the bizarre to rivet a reader to her tales. Here the sudden revelation of Manley Pointer’s malevolence is both dramatic and shocking but a fitting climax to a story whose protagonist, Hulga, made a profession of dispelling illusions. The reader expects the confrontation between Hulga and Pointer to occur but is surprised by the role each ends up playing.

O’Connor had an unmatched ability to capture the cadences of country speech and the banalities of everyday conversation. Her depiction of Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman’s frequent kitchen conversations helps to underscore the role-playing and insincerity lurking behind the southern landscapes that served as the setting of most of her stories. In like manner, O’Connor uses two minor characters in the story, Mrs. Freeman’s daughters, Glynese and Carramae, as effective foils for the character of Hulga. Neither Glynese nor Carramae has any illusions about her lot in life, and the homey details of their lives that O’Connor presents—Carramae’s bout with morning sickness, for example—serve as a vivid contrast to the airy, philosophical notions with which Hulga has insulated herself.