Intellectual Superiority as a Power Structure

In Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People,” one element of the complicated storyline focuses on the conjunction between Hulga’s non belief in “everything” (though her human feelings of privacy and connectedness to her identity are highlighted) and the impact it has on her perceived dominance. It at first appears that she is the definition of negative: she was dealt a bad lot in life and, to cope, made herself into a miserable person with no belief in the world. She thinks of herself as inherently enlightened for realizing that nothing matters and that, as she puts it, “We are all damned” (70). It also appears at first that the Bible salesman is her complete opposite: he has a similar condition, but instead of wallowing devotes himself to positivity and God. Hulga prides herself too much, however, in her power as a superior person because of her education. In the binary she sees herself as “educated” and him as a “country boy” with no real substance. She allows this view, which is only what she wants to see, to cloud her judgement; it opens the door to him to scam and take advantage of her. However, by parading as a foolish Country Boy, the boy takes her position of power and leaves her helpless, furthering the power cycle.

Breaking the Binary in Spiderhead

Of the many binaries in Escape from Spiderhead, the one that has the most impact on Jeff’s self-sacrifice at the end of the story is the experimenter/prisoner binary. This binary is already complicated since usually it is implied that the prisoners are bad people and scientists/law enforcement is good, but the roles of this other binary are already switched. Because of this, as a “good person”, Jeff does not want to flip the binary and become the one in power. For him to take over the role of dominator would make him a killer within the context of the present in Spiderhead, which he is terrified of doing. Therefore instead of feeding into the power structure, he breaks out of it completely through noble sacrifice. In his thought process of trying to figure out a way to “leave” Spiderhead, he comes to his conclusion: “How could I make it so I wouldn’t be here? I could leave. How could I leave?…. Some Darkenfloxx. Jesus. That was one way to leave” (78). Though his apprehension about death is evident, he decides on this because it is the only way he can think of to break free of the binary entirely.