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

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Platitudes are moral sayings that have been used so often they have become stale, worn out and meaningless. There is a difference between a cliche and a platitude in that platitudes contain moral messages. Mrs Hopewell uses the most platitudes in the story; she also has the most shallow outlook on life.

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A platitude is similar to a cliche: it is a saying that has been used so often it has become stale, worn out, and meaningless. The difference between a cliche and a platitude is that a platitude contains a moral message.

Mrs. Hopewell is the great user of platitudes in the story. Platitudes are a substitute for thought, and Mrs. Hopewell has no desire to think. She has already arranged the world to be the way she wants it to be.

Mrs. Hopewell uses platitudes often in regard to her daughter, Joy, who has renamed herself Hulga. Mrs. Hopewell does this because it is easier than confronting what Hulga really might need or be like on the inside. Mrs. Hopewell is more concerned with outward appearances than interiority and wishes her daughter would adopt the same attitude. Therefore, she is always using platitudes to her. The platitudes reinforce for Mrs. Hopewell that her shallow view of the world is the right one, because they sound wise and knowing. Therefore, she will say such things as the following:

people who looked on the bright side of things would be beautiful even if they were not.

it was nice for girls to go to school to have a good time

a smile never hurt anyone.

Mrs Hopewell, comically, will also use platitudes that are absurdly contradictory to how she wants her daughter to be:

“Well, it takes all kinds of people to make the world go ―round,” Mrs. Hopewell said. “It's very good we aren't all alike.”

Mrs. Hopewell would like nothing more than for Hulga to act like other people.

The platitudes drop off markedly when Mrs. Hopewell isn't around, but Pointer uses one when he says to Hulga,

I guess God takes care of you.

Usually platitudes are uplifting, but Hulga uses a negative platitude when she says to Pointer,

some of us have taken off our blindfolds and see that there's nothing to see.

Hulga falls into a romantic cliche that borders on platitude when she thinks, as she allows Pointer to remove her false leg,

It was like losing her own life and finding it again, miraculously, in his.

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Mrs. Hopewell often uses platitudes, which are statements that involve oversimplifications and pat observations about life. There are many examples of her platitudes in "Good Country People." For example, she says of the Freeman family that "they were good country people." Some of the other platitudes she uses include "nothing is perfect," "that is life," and "it takes all kinds to make the world." There is a certain irony in her using these expressions, as they are the opposite of what is true. For example, she describes the Bible salesman as "good country people," but he is actually a fraud. One of his Bibles is a container for toting around whiskey, and he does not believe in religion, through he works as a Bible salesman. In the end, he steals Joy's artificial leg, so he is a thief as well.

Mrs. Hopewell's daughter, Joy, does not use platitudes. While Mrs. Hopewell wants to maintain a superficial cheerfulness and acceptance of life, Joy confronts the world with anger and her lack of acceptance of what is pat or cliché. For example, Joy changes her legal name to Hulga so that she can confront the world with a name that is as angry and ugly as she feels. Joy resists using the kinds of platitudes that her mother resorts to. Instead, she comes out with complicated philosophical statements such as "we are not our own light."

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Here are some more flat, dull remarks from the dull Mrs. Hopewell (isn't her name ironically perfect!):

"Everybody is different"

"It takes all kinds to make the world."

"Nothing is perfect."

"...not the kind that you would want to be around you for very long."

"people who looked on the bright side of things would be beautiful even if they were not."

"she didn't have a grain of sense."

"a smile never hurt anyone."

"You said a mouthful." (the Bible salesman utters this one)

"overflow with hospitality"

"we all have work to do"

"His breath was clear and sweet like a child's"

These platitudes demonstrate the torpid mind of Mrs. Hopewell who is deceived by the Bible salesman.  They also throw into sharp contrast the grotesque ending to O'Connor's "Good Country People" after the utterance of a platitude by Mrs. Hopewell: "I guess the world would be better off if we all all that simple" in reference to the Bible salesman.  Mrs. Freeman then remarks, "Some can't be that simple...."

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A platitude is a meaningless conjecture that is put forward as if it is original.  I am not going to claim to have found them all, but let's start with the title.  "Good Country People" is not only the story's title, but is the major platitude uttered by Mrs. Hopewell--the belief that someone from the country is morally superior to a city person.  While it is a ridiculous notion, is used to be and is sometimes still commonly believed.  Mrs. Hopewell says they are the "salt of the earth"- another platitude and cliche. 

"That's life" is commonly stated by Mrs. Hopewell which of course is a platitude, because everything that happens is life. 

In another example, the notion that something "makes the world go around" is meaningless as well.

Mrs. Freeman's "I wouldn't say it was and I wouldn't say it wasn't" could be said to constitute a platitude.

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