In "Good Country People" by O'Connor, why are the characters' names significant?

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Many of the names in this story can be interpreted ironically: for example, Mrs. Hopewell wants to see the good in people, such as Manley, but she tends to allow her sense of her own superiority to blur her vision, dashing her hopes. Her daughter, also a Hopewell, suffers from the same problem.

Mrs. Freeman, on the surface, is not free, as she farms Mrs. Hopewell's land. However, because she has a clearer vision of the world than Mrs. Hopewell she may, ironically, be more free.

Manley Pointer's name is most interesting because it is open to multiple interpretations. Given O'Connor's Catholic theology, the name Manley, which includes the word "man," can be seen as alluding to his fallen nature. He is connected to the worldly and divorced from the spiritual. One interpretation of Pointer is that this evil, fallen young man points out to Hulga her own naivete and limitations.

The name Hulga may come from the old, disused Swedish word huld that means lovable and sweet. This would be ironic as Hulga chooses this name for its harsh sound and to reject her name of "Joy."

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As in all of her writings, O’Connor intentionally imbues the characters’ names with thematic or symbolic meaning in “Good Country People.”

Mrs. Hopewell is a trusting woman who believes she is an excellent judge of character. Specifically, she mostly thinks people are guileless and good, a trait that allows her to be easily duped. Therefore, one could argue that her name is ironic because she is an endless well of hope for humanity (who also happens to be tricked many times).

This trend of ironic names continues throughout the text. Joy is likely the most unhappy character throughout the story, constantly condescending to those around her, despite her relative lack of personal success outside her educational attainment. Likewise, the Freemans are tenants on Mrs. Hopewell’s farm, therefore not "free" at all.

Manley Pointer is most likely a pseudonym for the real man lurking underneath the fictitious Bible salesman he presents himself as. While the other Educator suggests the phallic symbolism of this name, another interpretation is that he points a finger at Joy/Hulga, calling her out as being just as gullible as her mother—albeit for a different reason.

Finally, you might even examine Mrs. Freeman’s daughters' names, Glynese and Carramae. Both of these names are seemingly made-up, Southern bastardizations of other common names. Perhaps O’Connor chooses these names to poke fun of this Southern trend, or perhaps she is using it as further evidence of Joy’s condescending attitude toward those whom she perceives to be beneath her.

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Concerning names in "Good Country People":

  • Mrs. Freeman's name is ironic because she isn't free--she's a tenant farmer.  Mentally, she is anything but free--she's a simpleton who quotes platitudes and is dangerous because she's so simplistic in her thinking.
  • Mrs. Hopewell's name suggests she sees only good in others, as she sometimes suggests.  Yet, she's actually simplistic and judgmental, focusing on the difference between "good country people" and trash, which, of course, she can't really tell the difference between.
  • Joy/Hulga changes her name to the ugliest name she can find.  The name fits her grotesque appearance and state of mind, but also is a rejection of her mother's way of life. 
  • Manley Pointer uses his manly pointer as bait to seduce and trick Hulga.  His name is phallic, of course.  He is the source of evil that ultimately leads to Hulga's awakening.  Hulga goes to the barn with him because she, too, assumes he is "good country people," demonstrating that she does share her mother's belief.  When Manley tricks her and humiliates her, and points out that is doesn't take a Ph.D to be nihilistic and believe in nothing, her feelings of intellectual superiority are savagely rebuked. 
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In "Good Country People," how are the characters' names significant? Is there any symbolism?

In her creation of Manley Pointer, author Flannery O'Connor has given birth to one of literature's greatest names. He lives up to both of them: Although pretending to be an innocent, country bumpkin, the highly confident Manley shows his manly side when he seduces Hulga. Like the hunting dog for which he is named, Manley sniffs out his prospective victims, and then flushes out their insecurities before taking advantage of them. The name also conjures up phallic connotations. 

Joy/Hulga Hopewell is another great combination. As Joy Hopewell, she showed great promise as a youngster, but after losing her leg, she becomes embittered with life and all around her, and she chooses one of the ugliest possible names to fittingly reinvent herself.

Mrs. Freeman's name is ironic, of course, since she is a tenant farmer relying on the support of the Hopewells. Mrs. Freeman's daughters, both teenagers with plenty of sexual experience, apparently are quite willing to give themselves freely to any man. Mrs. Hopewell consistently lives up to her name, always hoping that all will turn out well for her and her daughter.

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In O'Connor's "Good Country People," what is the symbolism in each character's name?

Flannery O'Connor loved to give her characters symbolic names. In this story, the daughter with the wooden leg is called Joy, but she believes she has no joy in her life, so she has renamed herself Hulga, an ugly Germanic-sounding name that sounds like the name of a Hun, not a woman. Her last name is Hopewell, but Joy/Hulga has neither "joy" nor "hope." Her mother is named Mrs. Hopewell and she does have some "hope" for her daughter (that is why she named her Joy), even though her hope is mostly dashed to pieces by the sullen girl.

The hired woman is named Mrs. Freeman, but she is not really "free" because she works for Mrs. Hopewell and cannot compete with her socially or monetarily, but she always has to get the last word in when they are talking. Mrs. Freeman's daughers are named Glynese and Carramae. Joy/Hulga calls them "Glycerin and Caramel" - two sweet substances. Glynese and Carramae are two feminine sounding names when compared to Hulga. Glynese and Carramae are sweet girls in the eyes of their mother, who is always bragging about them.

Finally, there is Manley Pointer. He is the Bible saleman. He is a "manly" arrival at the farm, and even Joy/Hulga finds him handsome. Some people believe that his last name is a phallic symbol, if you get my drift.

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In O'Connor's "Good Country People," how are the characters' names significant?

In this story, a homely young woman with a wooden leg has changed her name from Joy to Hulga. She believes that she has nothing to be joyful about because she is a cripple, wears glasses and is homely. So, why should she have the name Joy? She chooses Hulga because it reminds her of the Roman god Vulcan. Her last name is Hopewell and again, because she has nothing to hope for in life, she has neither hope nor joy. The one source of pride for Hulga Hopewell is her education. She has a PhD in philosophy and because of this, fancies herself above everyone in intelligence, albeit nothing else.

The Freeman family lives on the land as tenant farmers, but they are not really “free” because they are tenant farmers and do not own the land. They are also of lower social status than the Hopewell family. Into this mix comes a Bible salesman, somewhat of a con artist. His name is Manley Pointer. He is “manly” in the sense that he plans to seduce Hulga. The last name “Pointer” is considered by some to be a phallic reference.

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In Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People," how are the characters' names significant?

"Good Country People" is a short story by Flannery O'Connor about a bible salesman, Manley Pointer, who deceives people about his intentions and who likes to steal artificial body parts, including artificial legs.

Hulga, who changed her name from "Joy", is obviously significant.  "Joy" is a name associated with happiness; however, "Joy" hates the name and changes it to "Hulga" in part to spite her mother.

Manley Pointer is the bible salesman who comes to call at Hulga's house.   Manley is significant because he is anything but a real "man." He is a liar and a thief.

Also, there can be significance in the name "Hopewell", which is the last name of Hulga and her mother.  "Hope" and "well" both have positive meanings as separate words, but what happens in the story is far from hopeful and good.  If anything, it shakes Hulga's sense of self-importance and superiority.

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