Irony and Metaphor in Good Country People Essay

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Good Country People: Metaphor and Irony

Joy Hulga is the main character of Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People." She represents the proud, young educated student who has renounced any faith in Christ. As her mother Mrs. Hopewell puts it to Manley Pointer, the Bible salesman, "My daughter is an atheist and won't let me keep the Bible in the parlor" (O'Connor 278). Manley turns out to be both Joy's double and foil -- atheistic like herself, but also seeking to seduce her for her false leg (he is a collector of oddities), even as she seeks to seduce him to show that she does not believe in sin. The great irony is that proud Hulga falls for Manley -- only to be rejected. For O'Connor, a Roman Catholic, sin is the absence of good -- and the absence of any good whatsoever at the end of the story is what acts as the real blow to Joy Hulga, leaving her high up in the loft without assistance, her pride taken away from her and only the reflection of her own need of salvation staring back at her from the distance. This paper will show how in "Good Country People" O'Connor uses irony and metaphor to convey a sense of the gulf that exists between "enlightened" but ignorant Hulga and "humble" but informed Joy.

Mrs. Hopewell's daughter Joy is a college graduate whose education has been so good that she is no longer qualified to do anything but look down her nose at everyone around her -- after all, O'Connor ironically notes, one cannot say that "my daughter is a philosopher," as Mrs. Hopewell ruefully observes (O'Connor 276). In other words, Joy Hulga has received a doctorate but can do nothing with it other than sit "on her neck in a deep chair, reading" and looking "at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity" (O'Connor 276). Part of Joy Hulga's problem is that she has a weak heart -- otherwise, as she likes to tell her mother, she would be away lecturing at a college.

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Because her heart is no good, however, she is confined to her mother's home in the country. O'Connor is using irony and metaphor here -- Joy Hulga hasn't the heart to be a good philosopher and hasn't the simplicity and joy to be a good country person. She is good for nothing -- and that is why she believes in nothing. In fact, she hates her mother -- which is why she legally changed her name from Joy to Hulga: it was an act of revenge against her mother, much like Milton's Satan seeks to destroy God's creation -- Adam and Eve -- in order to get back at his own Creator.

Joy uses her wooden leg to further annoy those around her: O'Connor states that she can walk quietly but chooses not to -- she enjoys unsettling those she despises and deliberately seeks to be ugly (which is why she chose the name Hulga -- it sounds bruising to the ears). In the Bible salesman, she sees her perfect prey: an innocent (so she believes him to be) whom she can corrupt/convert to her own belief in nothingness. Since she cannot lecture nihilism and atheism….....

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Works Cited

O'Connor, Flannery. "Good Country People." In The Complete Stories of Flannery

O'Connor. NY: Harcourt, 1971. Print.

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"Irony And Metaphor In Good Country People", 06 April 2017, Accessed.15 November. 2019,
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