Student Question

How do Mrs. Freeman's descriptions of her daughters contribute to the theme of "Good Country People"?

Quick answer:

Mrs. Freeman’s descriptions of her daughters contribute to the story’s theme of alienation and difference that Hulga embodies in "Good Country People." Through the characters of the two mothers, author Flannery O’Connor draws a sharp contrast between the social conformity of local young women, such as the Freeman daughters, and Hulga’s perceived status as a misfit in her community. Glynese and Carramae are representatives of traditional female virtues, such as beauty and motherhood, that Hulga does not possess.

Expert Answers

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In Flannery O’Connor’s story, Mrs. Freeman is one of the people that Mrs. Hopewell labels with the title phrase. The author uses the two mothers, their relative social positions, and their daughters to highlight the theme of alienation and difference of which Hulga is the primary representative. As Mrs. Hopewell is socially superior to Mrs. Freeman, whose family is tenant farmers on the Hopewell’s land, she imagines that her attitude is one of graciously accepting the other woman, but she is actually very condescending.

Mrs. Freeman brags about the successes of her daughters, Glynese and Carramae. Their accomplishments are associated with natural qualities and occur within traditional female domains. She emphasizes the physical attractiveness of one daughter and the pregnancy of the other. Furthermore, she has two daughters, whereas Mrs. Hopewell only has one.

The contrast with Hulga Hopewell could not be clearer. She is portrayed as both unattractive and unconventional. Not only did she suffer a severe childhood injury, but she is also highly intelligent, having earned a doctorate, and she remains unmarried. Although Hulga has returned to live at home, she does not fit in with her community—or, as O’Connor demonstrates, with her gender.

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