In a short story Good Country People, O’Connor provides a plethora of reflections about the true attitude of people to religion and the nature of people’s relations with each other. The main character of this story, Joy, is a woman with physical challenge. She lost her leg in childhood and, probably, at the same time lost her belief into religion as a set of rules that should regulate human lives, thus, making this world better.
For Joy, religion has no sense; she cannot imagine the presence of God in this world which is full of violence and unfairness. People often try to explain the real meaning of things without understanding their true nature, being blind to see pure knowledge. Therefore, the key message implies that people use religion as a shield behind which they can hide their true attitude to life.
However, even well-educated people make the wrong conclusions when they start believe in nothing. The author uses irony in order to emphasize that when one is sure of the true nature of things from the scientific position of view, the universe is empty and God is a fiction, one cannot live without reflections about the supreme power that always exists in people’s lives. Hence, if there is no God in someone’s life, the empty space will be replaced by evil.
The story is based on a line of contradictions between science and religion, education and foolishness. Despite her solid education, Joy tends to isolate herself from the rest of the humankind, feeling that she loses her faith. Because of that, she changes her name, choosing the ugliest one possible, i.e. Hulga. In addition, her relations with mother are as bad as than they can possibly be. One can notice that Hulga does not love her mother; treating the latter as an enemy.
Hulga’s attitude towards her mother makes it obvious that the women is much like one of those good country people around but not Hulga’s family member. Thus, when Hulga changes the name, she feels satisfied by the victory over mother: “One of her major triumphs was that her mother had not been able to turn her dust into Joy, but the greater one was that she had been able to turn it herself into Hulga” (O’Connor 1632).
Hulga believes in nothing, which becomes obvious from her consideration of life and world, the universe is empty. She supposes that religious people as the fools who are unable to comprehend the real meaning of things and, therefore, replace it by mystical beliefs.
However, as a result of her new spiritual experiments, Hulga replaces the emptiness within by evil, which further on leads to her is inability to believe in goodness, God or another supreme power that could affect her life. Hulga’s reflections make stronger after meeting with a Bible salesman Manley Pointer, who, at first glance, seems religious and gentle, yet later on steels Hulga’s wooden leg.
In addition, the author adds considerable irony to the novel, making the main character, a woman with such powerful mind, physically challenged. Hulga supposes that she is better than all those good country people who believe in their God, including her mother, neighbors and a Bible salesman.
It is peculiar that Hulga’s assurance grows stronger when she learns that Manley Pointer is an atheist and, in fact, he is even more evil than people who seems less religious. Obviously, Hulga’s previous conviction that the universe is empty changes to the belief that the world is based on evil.
Finally, she gains the mystical knowledge that was missing during her previous study, yet this is the knowledge of evil. Therefore, although Hulga finally comes to possessing the knowledge which she was longing for, she is still unable to see the beauty of the universe or to feel the presence of goodness in human life.
O’Connor, Flannery. “Good country people.” The American Traditions in Literature, 12 ed. Ed. George Perkins and Barbara Perkins. US: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Science/Languages, 2008. 1632. Print.