Editor's Choice

What are the archetypes in "Good Country People" by Flannery O'Connor?

Quick answer:

Archetype: a typical example of something in literature. In this story, the characters, Manley Pointer and Mrs. Hopewell are examples of archetypes.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

An archetype is a typical example of something. In literature, an archetype is a symbol or type of character that occurs often. One archetype in "Good Country People" is the kind of innocent country folk whom Mrs. Hopewell represents. Mrs. Hopewell detests the education and the satirical nature of her daughter, Joy, whom she considers far too educated. Mrs. Hopewell prefers the "good country people" like Mrs. Freeman, who works for her, and Mrs. Freeman's daughters, one of whom is already married and pregnant at age 15. The "good country people" are simple and distrustful of those who are eccentric or who stray too far from established ways of doing things.

The traveling Bible salesman, Manley Pointer, is also an archetype—that of the salesman who is actually a con man. He takes advantage of Mrs. Hopewell's blind trust in "good country people." He describes himself as simple and pathetic, while he is actually devious and cunning.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Jungian thought, human beings across cultures share the same archetypes. An archetype is a universal type of character with the same basic underlying trait or traits. Typical archetypes include the following: the hero, the mother figure, the innocent, the trickster, the twin, the scapegoat, and the villain.

Hulga's mother represents the archetypal mother figure, who can be either the "good fairy" mother or the "evil witch" mother. Hulga's mother wants to be the good mother, giving the gift of a possible husband in Manley to Hulga, but she turns out to be the evil mother who does not know how to give good gifts to her daughter.

Hulga is the innocent. For all her education and ideas about her own sophistication, Hulga is easily taken in by Manley.

Manley is the most complicated archetype, as he could be considered a trickster figure posing as the archetypal innocent. However, he is really the villain, using the pose of innocence to take advantage of others.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

An archetype is a model on which others are based. Examples of archetypes in literature would be "the mad scientist" (Dr. Jekyll, for example); the strong, invicible hero (think Beowulf), etc.

Archetypes in this story by O'Connor include Hulga, her mother and Manley Pointer.

Hulga is an archetype because she is a character who is a young woman who is trying to rise above what she feels is a humble Southern upbringing.  She thinks she is better than others and smarter than others.  This is evident in her rude comments and her attitude towards her mother and Manley Pointer.  In the end, she gets her "comeuppance" and is humbled by Manley Pointer, who has tricked her and completely shattered her former view of herself and of others in the South. eNotes states:

All of a sudden, her intellectual snobbery in her nihilism becomes reduced to the same as his manipulative cruelty. After he abandons her, humiliated, in the barn, she sees “his blue figure struggling successfully over the green speckled lake.”

Hulga's mother is a stereotypical Southern mother who has tried to raise her children in the best way possible and who tends to dote on them.  She is down-to-earth and in touch with her roots and does not try to act or be better than others as her daughter Hulga does.

Manley Pointer is, in many ways, an archetypal "bad boy", although we do not know this until the end of the story when he steals Hulga's artificial leg and leaves her helpless in the loft.  Manley preaches Southern religious beliefs and sterotypes, but in reality, he is a farce, a cad, a fraud.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial