The Harsh Fate of Hulga Hopewell

Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” concludes with a dramatic twist that leaves our protagonist, Joy/Hulga, abandoned and betrayed. The bible salesman who calls himself Manley Pointer dislegs her and leaves her high and dry. But Pointer also leaves Hulga with a lesson.

The story depicts Hulga and her mother, Mrs. Hopewell, as fairly well-off. They have a nice home and employ a helping hand of sorts, Mrs. Freeman, who Mrs. Hopewell refers to as good country people.

While Hopewell might describe herself as good country people in the company of others, and she likely believes it to be a compliment, I perceived it as a patronizing term. She refers to Pointer as good country people too, and later calls him dull. Hopewell is a member of the middle class, and while she may wish to identify with people of lower class than her who she believes to be good, salt of the earth, working people, ultimately she looks down on them and pities them as much as she respects them.

Hulga is not as different from her mother as she thinks she is. She considers herself to be an intellectual and distances herself from the outdated ways of her mother and the people she grew up around, rejects their religious illogic and embraces scientific reasoning and atheism, but she shares the same superiority complex as her mother, possibly to an even greater extent.

Hulga underestimates Pointer. She believes him to be simple minded, good country people, just as her mother does. She makes herself completely vulnerable to him, a stranger she has every reason in the world to mistrust, while wrongfully assuming that she has the upper hand, and then she pays for that assumption. Pointer shatters her patronizing fantasy of good country people. Frankly, Hulga is lucky that she didn’t wind up dead and lives on to take up a more complex view of humanity.

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