Example #1 – Good Country People Character Analysis
The short story, “Good Country People”, written by Flannery O’Connor, is a story that captivates one by the usage of symbolism and theme. The story centers on the meaning of being a good person, in the sense of leading a Christian, pious life, worthy of salvation. O’Connor contrasts mindless chatter about “good country people” with questions about the true meaning of religious faith.
There is also a class hierarchy formed that includes stereotypes about “good country people” and literal and symbolic meanings of events, objects, and characters. Through the exclusive use of the third-person narrator, O’Connor’s narrative style poises a tension between the realistic (characters in typical settings performing natural acts) and symbolic (where names, signs, and other common objects represent larger issues).
She also employs the technique of the epiphany, where a single moment of illumination “awakens” the character and reveals the deeper meanings of the text. O’Connor describes the story’s characters as distorted versions of humanity, and virtually none are sympathetic in the traditional nature of the hero or heroine with whom a reader might identify.
Hulga is the dual dimension main character that goes through a complete change throughout the story. She changes her name to Hulga, an “ugly” name, to reflect her feelings about her injured body and self, as the name is the opposite of her real name “Joy”, as is her personality. The significance of Joy’s remaining conscious even though terribly injured as a child when “her leg was blasted off” indicates that Joy seems to have rejected her own body by choosing a life of intelligence and of the mind. As with her missing limb, Hulga’s “weak heart” operates as a symbolic as well as a literal affliction.
Hulga closes her heart just as she rejects her body. Hulga’s mother, Mrs. Hopewell, convinced that Hulga would have “been better without a useless PhD. degree in philosophy”, has no comprehension of the one true meaning of life to her daughter: “Such is after all the strictly scientific approach to Nothing. We know it by wishing to know nothing of Nothing.” This reference is too nihilistic philosophy, which denies the existence of any basis for truth. It rejects belief in concepts such as religion and morality and generally recognizes no authority.
Manley Pointer, a young misperceived country boy who sells bibles, is an illusion of appearance versus reality. The pointer is so heavily weighted down by his suitcase that he is lopsided and has to “brace himself to prevent collapsing”. This heaviness foreshadows a quality of falsehood that one carries that makes their mind, soul, and body heavy.
Like Joy/Hulga, he is physically awkward, suggesting a lack of balance. His name, also a symbol, can be interpreted as humorous, sexual, and ironic as his name was an invention of his mind. Misplaced faith in appearances is central to the themes of this story. Appearance and deception conflict with reality and truth, as Pointer assures Mrs. Hopewell that he is like her and can exchange generalizations about “good country people” as readily as Mrs. Freeman.
The biblical quotation, Matthew 10:30, foreshadows the story’s ironic ending. Mrs. Hopewell prides herself in not being taken for a fool, but this boy seemed “so sincere, so genuine and earnest.” In a way, both literally and ironically, Pointer is a missionary, though not as Mrs. Hopewell believes.
Furthermore, the seduction of Glynese foreshadows Pointer’s seduction of Hulga. The pointer plays up to each person’s expectations. Everyone thinks he is young, innocent, and wholesome, leading to Hulga’s fantasy about seducing him and having to deal with his remorse.
But, despite her advanced academic degree, Hulga’s misguided thinking is apparent in her fantasy that she will mercilessly seduce the boy, and in her “dabbing of Vapex” (a pungent and medicinal ointment) on her collar instead of perfume.
There are many themes within Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Good Country People”. Religion is definitely one of the more prominent themes that the story holds. Like most of O’Connor’s works, it plays a big part in the actions or characteristics of the main characters. This is all on the surface, however. The more important and less accentuated theme is the various facades the characters create for themselves. These facades prevent them from facing their true “grotesque” selves.
These facades also hide the weaknesses that they have no wish to face ort just can’t understand. People must be comfortable with every aspect of themselves, because certain people, who in this story are represented by Manley Pointer’s character, can easily exploit their weaknesses. He’s “good country people” and “the salt of the earth” as Mrs. Hopewell refers to Manley Pointer who really is a demon that they must face. A demon to remind them of their weaknesses.
Beginning with Mrs. Hopewell, the title of the story comes from what she likes to call the poorer and less fortunate people that live off the land and work their whole lives just to hang on to some scrap of life. This is how she views these people. She believes that they are good country people not a bad seed among them, that they are all eager to help out and bow in humility to the upper class. The gullible nature of Mrs. Hopewell betrays her true vision of a situation. She is one of those people who are all goody-goody to people who they view as less fortunate.
She’s a person that commends or speaks for the people she knows nothing about. Altogether this is her true weakness that is taken advantage of by Manley Pointer. One of Mrs. Hopewell’s favorite sayings, “Nothing is perfect”, is seen at the very beginning of the story. Her saying was just that, a saying. The quote acts as foreshadowing for what her attitude towards life will be. We later find out that she is right, but that she does not live by her credo. Manley Pointer exploits this weakness as soon as she opened her door.
Showing up as a pathetic bible salesman with an ailing heart (which is coincidentally exactly what Joy-Hulga had) laying the old guilt trip on Mrs. Hopewell on how no one wants to deal with a simple country boy like himself, he attacks her weakness right at the heart of it. Not more than two minutes after he knocked on the door, he ends up eating dinner with them and at the conclusion is even invited to return any time he’d like. His persona blinds Mrs. Hopewell and prevents her from being somewhat suspicious of Manley.
At the end of the story, we see that Mrs. Hopewell is still clouded by her weakness and refers to Manly as simple as he passes through a field by Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman. Unlike Mrs. Hopewell, Joy-Hulga faces and comes to a realization of her weakness.
Joy-Hulga, who had grown cynical and cold as she grew up with only one leg and heart ailment, creates an image that she is smarter and better than the rest of the characters in the story. Her education and self-absorption seemed to instill this attitude in her to a greater extent than if she hadn’t studied and read so much. Her weakness is the feeling of power she believed she gained from her studies. She refers to herself as a person who “sees through nothing”. Little does she know that she is stating her greatest weakness by saying this. Her hidden desires cause her several problems later on. After years of education and self-absorption, Joy-Hulga felt that she had no weaknesses. “Science wishes to know nothing of nothing” and this is the credo followed by Joy-Hulga.
Her line of thinking turned out to be a weakness in itself. Her weaknesses are so prominent and hurtful from her childhood that she doesn’t want to be reminded of them. Manley Pointer puts Joy-Hulga into a position where she feels in control. “She took all his shame away and turned it into something useful”. She believes that she is manipulating Manley, but it is he who is doing the manipulating. She lets her guard down because she feels in such great control and becomes comfortable with Manley. She is being manipulated from the start, and no amount of education can stop the fact that she doesn’t see it coming. As soon as she admits to loving Manley Pointer, he sees the opening to completely destroy the fa?ade she worked so hard to create her whole life. Before Joy-Hulga even knows it, her glasses are off and Manley has removed her leg.
Physically she is broken down, but the real damage is done mentally. She knows that all control of the situation is out of her hands, and she once again feels the discomfort felt during her childhood days. Manley Pointer exploits joy-Hulga?s weakness to the fullest extent because she never sees it coming. Joy-Hulga believed she was superior because she learned to “see-through nothing”, but she doesn’t realize that Manley has known this much longer than she which is even more prominent coupled with his seeming lack of conscience.
Manley is the only character in the story that has no apparent weakness. Taking into consideration the religious theme within the story, he takes on the persona of a devil-like character. He seems to be an almost omniscient character, which would fall in line with a powerful type of being. Being the protagonist in the story he acts not on an individual level, but more of a level revolving around mankind.
His use of religion as a tool to carry out his acts of degradation and deception supports this persona. Does he even say to Joy-Hulga, “I hope you don’t think I believe in that crap”? Other things that represent this devil-like character is the hollow bible in which he kept instruments of a sort of sin. A definite clue to this is also when he also states to Joy-Hulga that He uses a different name every place he goes.
The fact that the devil is referred to by many different names in all different regions of the world and different times throughout history shows another similarity between Manley Pointer and the devil. Manipulation and degradation seem to be his only objectives in life. At the conclusion of the story when Manley is passing by Mrs. Freemen and Mrs. Hopewell, the onion shoots that they are picking are even referred to as “evil-smelling” the moment he passes.
Mrs. Freemen is more of a minor character in the story but she is referred to as having two emotions, ?forward and reverse?. This is important because when a person is forced to go in reverse they must face something or learn something they don’t want to know about themselves. This seems to be what happens during the course of the story for Joy-Hulga.
Although all the characters in the story are stuck in reverse, the only character that is forced to realize her weakness, which destroys the fa?ade that she created is Joy-Hulga. It seems that in this story as in life the highest and mighty suffer the greatest fall. Joy-Hulga was the one who perceived herself to be the high and mighty of the characters. This attitude is displayed with many of her comments to Mrs. Hopewell. Perhaps when Joy-Hulga remarks to Mrs. Hopewell, “Woman, do you ever look inside?” she should’ve taken her own advice.
Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Good Country People” mocks modern philosophy and those who follow it by suggesting that those who turn away from God will be taught, in one way or another, that God is real. The story, which takes place in the south, follows a girl who favors modern philosophy and how she is taken down by what seems to be the divinity of God. Through the characters presented in the story, O’Connor’s beliefs about Christianity and modern philosophy are revealed.
At the beginning of the story, Hulga is introduced as an arrogant girl with a belief in nothingness. She has a Ph.D. in philosophy and sees herself as better than the people around her. The narrator describes her through the eyes of her mother, Mrs. Hopewell; “She was brilliant but she didn’t have a grain of sense. It seemed to Mrs. Hopewell that every year she grew less like other people and more like herself – bloated, rude, and squint-eyed” (1343).
Hulga believes in existentialism and philosophy, which is an exercise in the denial of God, and she takes arrogant pride in believing that she knows far more than her mother, or any other country person does because she does not follow God. Flannery O’Connor, having a traditional conception of God, represents all those who believe in modern philosophy through Hulga, and she makes Hulga appear to be a horrible person. Hulga’s birth name is Joy, but she chooses not to go by it.
The narrator says, “Her name was really Joy but as soon as she was twenty-one and away from home, she had had it legally changed. Mrs. Hopewell was certain that she had thought and thought until she had hit upon the ugliest name in any language…. Her legal name was Hulga” (1342). This is important because Hulga was given a beautiful name by her mother, who is of the Christian faith.
But when Hulga becomes involved and interested in philosophy and the nothingness of the world, she changes her name to something ugly. Her name was chosen by herself, representing the denial of God and the acceptance of something ugly. Hulga, a philosopher who believes in nothingness, represents the way Flannery O’Connor saw those who turned away from God.
During the story, a bible salesman, Manley Pointer, works his way into Hulga’s life. Hulga, being arrogant and full of self-pride, believes she can show Manley the absolute truth, or at least the one she believes. When Manly invites her on a picnic, she agrees because she believes she can turn him away from God. Hulga keeps making it very clear that she does not believe in God throughout their time together. Hulga, when asked if she was not saved by God, says, “’ I’m saved and you are damned but I told you I didn’t believe in God’” (1350). Nothing seemed to destroy Hulga’s confidence in her denial of God.
Finally, near the end of the story, it is revealed that Manley is not a bible salesman but a fraud who steals from people. When he takes Hulga’s fake leg, she yells at him that perfect Christians like him do not do things like this. He replies by telling her he was never a Christian; “I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!” (1353). Manley was the deliverer of God.
He was there to give Hulga a slap in the face, to show her that only people who deny God with arrogance the way she did end up in pain. When Manley leaves after stealing Hulga’s leg, she watches from where she is stuck; “When she turned her churning face toward the opening, she saw his blue figure struggling successfully over the green speckled lake” (1353).
The way he is described as a blue figure walking over water suggests not that he is God, but the presence of God. Like academics and philosophers, Hulga wants to be in control and always wants to be right. When she is with Manley, she believes he is just another Christian who follows along with everything. She tries to control him and push her beliefs on him.
When he turns out to be just like her, she loses her control and gets punished. Manley and Hulga are not good country people because they turned their backs away from God. A belief in God is what makes one seemingly good. Manley being a terrible person, and Hulga having something horrible happen to her both supports Flannery O’Connor’s view of modern philosophy and those who follow it.
“Good Country People” thus mocks modern philosophy and the denial of God. By representing those who do not believe in God in Hulga and Manley, O’Connor is portraying the idea that those who deny God are either terrible people or will be punished. Hulga’s arrogance and belief that she is better than anyone else in her small town made her the perfect target for such cruel behavior.
Manley, in being the deliverer of God’s message to Hulga, took away her leg and left her stranded. Flannery O’Connor’s traditional conception of God is presented through Hulga’s tragic tale; according to what O’Connor would believe, she got what she deserved.
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 challenges. She lost her leg in childhood and, probably, at the same time lost her belief in 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 believing 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 her mother are as bad as then 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 are 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 the 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 with mystical beliefs.
However, as a result of her new spiritual experiments, Hulga replaces the emptiness within by evil, which further leads to her is an 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 a 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 eviler than people who seem 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.
“Never let your schooling get in the way of your education” – Mark Twain
“Good Country People”, by Flannery O?Connor, presents us with a look into the monotonous lives of three women living together on a rural farm. All three women are set in their old-fashioned ways, having experienced very little of life, out on the farm. A bible salesman named Manley Pointer, appearing like nothing more than simple, “good country people”(1) pays them a visit one day. It turns out that this simple country boy is actually a brilliant con artist who scams the pretentious daughter, Hulga (also known as Joy) into removing her wooden leg, which he proceeds to steal.
A great change in Hulga is triggered by her experience with Manley Pointer. Although it was a cruel scam, the bible salesman helps her to see the truth about her education and human nature. Hulga realizes that in addition to book smarts, people skills are also crucial in navigating the real world.
Hulga has been to college for many years, earning a Ph.D. in Philosophy. Coming from such a rural background, she feels that her education raises her status in the intellectual world, and therefore life in general, above anyone not as educated as she is. “You poor baby? it’s just as well you don’t understand”(404). The young woman fails to see that there is much more to life than what you can learn in a book. Due to a heart condition, however, Hulga is forced to remain home on the farm, instead of being in an academic setting where her education would be recognized and encouraged.
This attitude that she is above most other people isolates Hulga from everyone around her. Even her mother comments that “she didn’t like dogs or cats or birds or flowers or nature or nice men. She looked at nice men as if she could smell their stupidity”(396). Hulga has very little interaction with anyone at all, besides her mother and their tenant Mrs. Freeman. Hulga failed to see the idea shown in the above Mark Twain quote.
Hulga, throughout her life, has been starved for affection and loving attention. The pointer is able to get her to succumb to his wishes so easily because she is amazed that someone sincerely wants to be with her, or so it seems. Ever since she was ten, she has had her wooden stump leg, and her heart problem to live with. More recently, Hulga’s weight problem is another obstacle that adds to her isolation. Combined with her condescending attitude, these encumbrances have succeeded to separate her from mainstream society. Pointer realizes this and is able to use it to his advantage; he knows all the right things to say to her. In the hayloft, Hulga hears fond admiration for what is quite possibly one of the first times in her life.
As a result, the customarily very independent, strong-willed Hulga is completely under the control of an uneducated man half her age. “It’s what makes you different. You ain’t like anybody else?. She decided that for the first time in her life, she was face to face with real innocence. This boy, with an instinct that came beyond wisdom, had touched the truth about her”(404). The pointer is one of the few people in her life who was able to see the real Hulga; he saw through the cold fa?ade.
Thanks to Mr. Pointer, Hulga was able to see the truth about her situation in the world “book smarts won’t help you at all without people skills and common sense. Up till the very end, however, she was unable to come to grips with the fact that smart, educated Hulga had been deceived by someone who appeared to be nothing more than a simple country boy.
Being stranded in the loft, however, forced Hulga to realize that people sometimes need to depend on each other. Something else she realized is that in life, book smarts mean very little compared with experience and knowledge of the real world
This issue of having real-world smarts as well as book smarts is especially relevant to the modern-day higher education student. With all the pressure surrounding schoolwork, it is easy to get caught up in academics and lose sight of the world around you. Achieving a balance between schoolwork and real-world education is key to success in this world. College students these days must try to find their own personal “Manley Pointer”, in order to remind themselves of the balance necessary in life.
Flannery O’Connor’s dismissal of the outside world allows you to understand more of the symbolic quality of all of the active characters. Even the names she chooses for each character help her to establish their significance in the story.
O’Connor uses symbolism, good versus evil, and the psychological and physiological problems of the characters to create irony in “Good Country People”. O’Connor also uses Biblical parallels for inspiration to depict events in the story. All of O’Connor’s stories have characters that aren’t your typical run of the mill people; she also uses a lot of symbolism and irony in her character’s physical appearances.
The story is divided into four distinct sections which help emphasize the relationships between the four main characters. O’Connor is able to establish subtle parallels between Mrs. Hopewell and Joy/Hulga, and Pointer and Mrs. Freeman by dividing the story into these sections. It also allows her to show the different sides of each character.
All of these writing techniques help her establish depth in her story and she uses these techniques in nearly all of her stories. “There is very little going on of consequence in the action plot, but massive movement in the character arc” (Jones).
In “Good Country People” O’Connor uses a third-person narrator to tell the story of various women. First, the narrator introduces two families or a very different social stance. Mrs. Hopewell is a widow who lives a life dictated by social accuracy and her daughter Joy/Hulga who only lives with her mother in a physical sense. The name “Hopewell” characterizes both Mrs. Hopewell and her daughter. Both women are individuals who simplistically believe that what they want can be had — although each of them is, in her own way, blind to the world as it really exists.
Both women fail to see that the world (because it is a fallen world) is a mixture of good and evil. This misperception leads them to assume that the world is much simpler than it actually is. Since both Hulga and her mother have accepted this false view of reality, each of them “hopes well” to tailor that made-up world to meet her own needs; Mrs. Hopewell by living in a world where cliches operate as truth, and Hulga by insisting that there is nothing behind, or beyond, the surface world.
Despite the parallels between Mrs. Hopewell and her daughter have a very feeble relationship. Mrs. Hopewell may sound like she has accepting compassion for everyone and “would probably sum up her inability to understand her daughter-with-a-Ph. D. by saying, “She’s brilliant, but she doesn’t have a grain of sense. ” (CliffNotes. com), but in reality, she can’t come to terms with the fact that her daughter is different. She sees Joy/Hulga’s acts of rebellion as annoying, immature pranks did to spite her. In all actuality it is Hulga’s Ph. D. in the philosophy that creates a major problem between them.
Mrs. Hopewell wants to be able to brag about her daughter like she does Mrs. Freeman’s but doesn’t feel like she can because “You could not say “My daughter is a philosopher. ” That was something that had ended with the Greeks and Roman” (O’Connor 268). The way her daughter dresses is also something that drives a wedge between them Mrs. Hopewell thinks that Hulga’s wearing “a six-year-old skirt and a yellow sweatshirt with a faded cowboy on a horse embossed on it…Mrs. Hopewell thought it was idiotic and showed simply that she was still a child. ” (O’Connor 268).
Mrs. Hopewell is angry and embarrassed by her daughter’s behavior, “her name change (from “Joy” to “Hulga”) cut such a wound into Mrs. Hopewell that she will never entirely heal” (CliffNotes. com), but ultimately accepts it because her daughter never got to have a “normal good time” (O’Connor 266). Joy/Hulga is in constant contact with a vain but simple-minded mother and an apparently simple-minded but crafty hired woman. At her mother’s failure to understand her, she withdraws completely and refuses to attempt any meaningful relationship with her mother.
She changed her name from Joy to Hulga as part of one of the greatest triumphs turning herself into Hulga. Hulga is always trying to escape from the Southern social conventions and stereotypes in which her mother and Mrs. Freeman are immersed. Hulga is very self-assured about herself and her vision of life, which is a nihilistic and atheist point of view; as one of her books reads: “If science is right, then one thing stands firm: Science wishes to know nothing of nothing. Such is after all the strictly scientific approach to Nothing. We know it by wishing to know nothing of Nothing” (O’Connor 268-9).
She is also very proud of her education; she thinks that it makes her superior to all of these “country people” with their simple ways and religious beliefs, and as a result, refuses to intermingle with any of the people around her. Hulga is blind to the world as it really is and it is ironic since she attempts to show her mother’s blindness to her and ends up revealing her own. She even fantasizes about showing Pointer how the world really “works” but it’s he who teaches her a lesson about the real world. Then there’s Mrs. Freeman, Mr.
Freeman and their daughters Glynese and Caramel, however only Mrs. Freeman has an active role in the story, her husband and daughters are only used as objects of interest in discussions. The Freeman name is a direct play on the status of the family as tenant farmers.
Mrs. Freeman has a clearer view of the world, which is obvious because she doesn’t take Hulga or Pointer at face value, “but she chooses to obsess over the horrible, diseased, and grotesque aspects of life” (CliffNotes. com). Mrs. Freeman is depicted as a fairly shrewd woman who is capable of using Mrs. Hopewell’s blindness to reality, just as Manley Pointer uses Hulga’s blindness to reality for his own selfish advantage.
Mrs. Freeman is given attributes that parallel those of Manley Pointer. For example, both Mrs. Freeman and Manley Pointer are seen as “good country people” by Mrs. Hopewell; both have a morbid interest in Hulga’s wooden leg; both of them allow their victims to form an erroneous view of “good country people”; and finally, both Pointer and Mrs. Freeman are described as having steely eyes capable of penetrating Hulga’s facade. Both are also clearly capable of successfully manipulating Mrs. Hopewell. The introduction of the bible salesman, Manley Pointer, is in and of itself another play on the use of names as symbolic meaning.
Manley’s presence is the first and only physical arrival of the outside community in the Hopewell home and the only active male presence in the story. “Mrs. Hopewell thinks about this young man that he is a member of what she calls good country people, the poorer and less lucky people around her” (BookRags. com). On their first date, they go to a hayloft where Hulga has the intention of seducing him, but actually, Pointer is the one who seduces her.
While she is opening her heart to a possibility of finding love, he steals her wooden leg and leaves her alone and totally defenseless in the hayloft. Pointer uses the facade of a Catholic young Bible salesman to hide his real and evil personality. He uses Mrs. Hopewell’s weakness, her conventional vision of life and people, in order to introduce himself into the Hopewell’s house. He also employs his appearance of a country simpleton with Hulga. Pointer puts Hulga into a position where she feels in control.
She thinks that she is manipulating Manley, but he’s actually the one doing the manipulation. Hulga lets down her guard because she feels in such complete control and becomes comfortable with Manley. Pointer seems to be almost an omniscient character because he sees through the appearance and attitude of all of the other characters. O’Connor’s selection of a well-known biblical parallel “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it,” (New King James Version, Matthew 10:39), clearly depicts Hulga’s rational surrender to Pointer.
Hulga’s epiphany, or moment of grace, occurs as a result of Pointer’s betrayal of her faith in him and his destruction of her intellectual pretensions. Prior to his betrayal of her, Hulga considered herself to be the intellectual superior of all those around her. She relied upon the wisdom of this world to guide her, contrary to the biblical warning to “See to it that no one deceives you by philosophy and vain deceit, according to human traditions, according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ” (New King James Version, Colossians 2:8).
O’Connor uses the final paragraphs of the story to make the parallel which she established earlier between Hulga and her mother even clearer. Hulga has now undergone mortification, and Mrs. Hopewell appears to be facing a future revelation. Mrs. Hopewell’s analysis of Pointer, “He was so simple . . . but I guess the world would be better off if we were all that simple” (O’Connor 283) is as wrong as Hulga’s earlier assessment of Pointer.
The final irony in the story involves Mrs. Freeman’s response: “Some can’t be that simple. . . I know I never could” (O’Connor 284). Thus, the reader is left with the impression that Mrs. Hopewell will also have to go through an experience that will destroy the confidence she has in her ability to control and to use Mrs. Freeman.