The story Good Country People begins by introducing Mrs. Hopewell, a farmowner, and Mrs. Freeman, her tenant. Joy, Mrs.
Hopewell’s daughter, is thirty-two and has a prosthetic leg due to a hunting incident. Joy restates on several occasions that she doesn’t believe in god and has a Ph.D. in philosophy. She had her name changed to “Hulga” as a way to rebel against her mother with the ugliest name possible.
Manley Pointer appears to be just a Bible salesman, who stopped by Mrs. Hopewell’s house and attempted to sell them a Bible. Mrs. Hopewell, disinterested in purchasing a bible, let him stay for dinner instead. Mrs. Hopewell perceives Manley to be “good country people,” which she restates throughout the story. When he leaves, Manley invites Hulga to a picnic later the next day, and she agrees.
While they are picnicking, he coaxes her enter the barn with him. Manley convinces her to show where her prosthetic leg attaches and takes her glasses. From his valise, Manley removes a hollowed Bible holding whiskey, obscene cards, and what can be implied as condoms.
He then reveals that his real name isn’t Manley and that he isn’t a Christian. He also talks about other instances where he had stolen prosthetics. Hulga’s prosthetic leg symbolizes much more than I would expect at first. On the surface it seemed like the leg is just a prop for the story, but it is quite the contrary. Flannery O’Connor includes a key line that reveals the meaning of the leg.
She states that Hulga “took care of the leg as someone else would his soul” (page 493). This becomes evident when Manley tries to separate her from the leg, making her vulnerable and “entirely dependent on him”. A similar experience I could relate to would be talking in a crowd and how vulnerable one can be when outside the comfort zone.Mrs, Hopewell stated something interesting: “Manley was just good country people” (page 489). This is an example of something that everyone can relate to.
There is always someone in everyone’s life who turns out to be different than what they initially seemed. In this case, Manley turns out to be the soulless thief toward the end of the story.In one of the closing paragraphs, Mrs. Hopewell sees “Manley” for the last time.
Oblivious to the events prior, she suggests that “the world would be better off if we were all that simple” (page 495). This is Flannery O’Connor’s further use of irony in the story. Mrs. Hopewell and Hulga both believe that Manley is way too “simple” to deceive them but this is far from true. Manley turns out to be one of the most clever characters in the story.