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Mrs. Hopewell describes "good country people" as people who are "not trash." She repeatedly says they are the "salt of the earth." It becomes clear as the story unfolds that she considers people she can control as "good country people." They are people onto whom she can project her own ideas (or fantasies) of who they are or should be. They are people who seem simple, ordinary, and not threatening to her. It's no wonder that as Manley Pointer insinuates himself into her good graces, she should think of him as "good country people," saying to him, “Why, I think there aren’t enough good country people in the world!”

Although she thinks she is different from her mother, Hulga has picked up the same tendency to look down on "good country people" and to feel she can control them. She decides she knows who Manley is on the most superficial basis, and she is frightened when he shows her his hidden alcohol stash. She asks, echoing her mother's definition of the phrase, "Aren’t you just good country people?” This elicits a defensive response from Manley:

The boy cocked his head. He looked as if he were just beginning to understand that she might be trying to insult him. “Yeah,” he said, curling his lip slightly, “but it ain’t held me back none. I’m as good as you any day in the week.”

Manley understands the condescension in the term as both Hulga and her mother use it, and he asserts himself. Perhaps because he is evil, he won't let Hulga put him into her predesignated "good people" slot. Instead, he reveals the extent of his hardness and malice.

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"Good country people" refers to those whom Mrs. Hopewell sees as simple and moral. They are the opposite of how she views her own daughter, Hulga, who revels in her nihilism and uses her education to demonstrate her supposed superiority. The "good country people" are seen as innocent, as opposed to the experience that Hulga imagines herself to have, and the experience that Manley Pointer actually has.

Many of O'Connor's stories demonstrate irony in the title. This story is no different. Hulga seeks to tempt and corrupt Manley Pointer, seeing him as a simple Bible salesman. Yet he turns out to be more corrupt than she could imagine. He steals her leg, & when she pleads, “Aren’t you just good country people?” he replies, “I hope you don’t think that I believe in that crap! I may sell Bibles but I know which end is up and I wasn’t born yesterday and I know where I’m going!” Thus, the "good country people" turn out to be a lie.

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When Mrs. Hopewell refers to others as "good country people," she means it as praise for people who are "simple" and "the salt of the earth." O'Connor uses this dialogue ironically, however, because Mrs. Hopewell only uses this phrase to describe people she considers to be inferior to herself. Mrs. Hopewell not only calls the Freeman family--her hired help--good country people, she also uses the term to describe Manley Pointer, the Bible salesman who comes to her door. Neither Mrs. Freeman nor Manley is entirely what they seem, so Mrs. Hopewell's labels ultimately look ridiculous.

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What does Mrs. Hopewell mean by "good country people" in the story "Good Country People"?

Mrs. Hopewell uses this term to describe people who are uncomplicated and uneducated. "Good country people" are characterized also by possessing what Mrs. Hopewell considers good values. 

This phrase, for Mrs. Hopewell, is both complimentary and subtly derisive.

...she considers herself more intellectual than all of the “good country people” around her...

There is an implication that "good country people" are thoroughly understandable, understood, and will not surprise anyone. 

This implication is eventually turned on its head and becomes ironic when the traveling salesman steals Hulga's leg. Hulga, the most skeptical person of the family, is fooled into believing that she understands the young man more than he understands her. 

This false confidence turns out to be nearly tragic for Hulga. The person she believed to be inferior, simple-minded and understandable turns out to be complex, criminal and violent. 

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What does Mrs. Hopewell mean by "good country people"?

Much like her daughter, Joy-Hulga, Mrs. Hopewell is somewhat critical of others. She, living her life in the country, only finds herself trusting people much like herself. She surrounds herself with a limited few whom hold the same values that she does.

Mrs. Hopewell only trusts Christian country people. It is this fact which allows Manley Pointer to gain access to her home and to her daughter. It seems that Mrs. Hopewell, while staunch in her stereotypes, limits her own ability to judge others correctly based solely upon their claims of being Christian and "country".

Therefore, Mrs. Hopewell defines "good country people" by comparing them to herself and the values she holds. Good country people are honest and good hearted. They also will accept hospitality of others like themselves. Above all else, they must have strong Christian values.

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