Literary Analysis Essay On Good Country People

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Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Good Country People” is about four main characters and their misconceptions about one another and life in general. Country people are usually considered to be humble and hard-working individuals and Flannery O’Connor uses the concept as an ironic title in her story “Good Country People”. The story opens with a description of Mrs. Freeman who is the wife of Mrs. Hopewell’s most recent tenant farmer. Mrs. Hopewell was hesitant in hiring her due to hearing from Mrs. Freeman’s reference that Mrs. Freeman was “the nosiest woman ever to walk the earth”, “she’s got to be into everything”, “she’ll want to know all your business” (2525); however, Mrs. Hopewell still hired the Freemans as she had no…show more content…

It is difficult to determine the cause(s) of her resentment towards her mother. Is it because of Joy’s heart condition seem to that her mother view her as a child or is it because of her disability; however, Mrs. Hopewell doesn't make any efforts to get to know her better. In addition, Mrs. Hopewell disapproves of Joy’s atheism and her philosophical mindset. Mrs. Hopewell observed "every year she grew less like other people and more like herself- bloated, rude and squint-eyed" (2527) clearly evidencing some disdain towards Joy. Mrs. Hopewell feels disappointed that she cannot boast about her daughter, as Joy did not conform to what Mrs. Hopewell felt was an appropriate life, from her attitude to her selection of degrees (philosophy). Mrs. Hopewell seems to have allowed her disdain towards Joy encompass all aspects of their relationship. While a kind woman, it is obvious she is very shallow and would rather have a life she could show off to the outside world. She instead boasts about her tenant farmer’s daughters and is envious that they conformed to what she felt what a woman was supposed to be. Additionally, her simple and naive belief that all country people are inherently good portrays that she lacks perception and does not believe in grays, only black and white. She is a broken woman for she is unable to have such connection with her own child and her mindset is limited. Joy, Mrs. Hopewell’s daughter, is a highly well-educated, disabled, 32 year

Flannery O’Connor commented a good deal on her own work, explaining that she belongs “to that literary generation whose education was in the hands of the New Critics” who valued showing over telling. This, says Susanne Morrow Paulson (1988), might account for the difficulty in interpreting her work, for in general it lacks a narrator to reflect on or explain the ideas or characters in the story.

Early reception of O’Connor’s work shows this difficulty; A Good Man Is Hard to Find, which includes “Good Country People,” faced a rather hostile audience. For example, Time magazine labeled O’Connor “Ferocious Flannery” while another critic “placed her in a cult of Gratuitous Grotesque.” The violence and grotesque humor in her stories made many readers uncomfortable, and rather than understand her as a Christian writer, an interpretation generally accepted today, they understood her as a nihilist.

Many critics now place “Good Country People,” along with many of O’Connor’s stories, in the tradition of the Southern Gothic. Thelma Shinn (1968) is one of the earliest critics to read O’Connor in this way. According to Leroy Letterman, the Southern Gothic tradition stems from “a sense of Being” achieved through suffering “a redemptive catastrophe.” Shinn takes her understanding of the grotesque one step further by referring to O’Connor’s own comments on her work. According to Shinn, O’Connor explicitly said that she was “a novelist with Christian concerns” and that “the most reliable path to reality...is by way of the grotesque.” With this information, she analyzes O’Connor’s stories as a blending of the Roman Catholic with the Southern Gothic, which together account for their humor.

Because O’Connor wrote so much about her fiction, many critics draw on her comments to understand these stories. In 1958, just a few years after the publication of the collection A Good Man Is Hard to Find, O’Connor said that the major themes of her writing are conversion and grace. Using this statement as his point of departure, A. R. Courtland (1983) politely disagrees with the author, arguing that while most stories are “about grace and redemption, not all of them depict the action of grace on a character. ‘Good Country People’,” he says, “is one story that leaves the question of salvation unanswered.”

Some more recent critical response to “Good Country People” addresses issues of gender in the story. Lisa Babinec (1990) argues that the story shows the damaging aspects of failed mother–daughter relationships, including “patterns of maternal domination, failed expectations, the effects of manipulation, and the ready acceptance of the masculine work ethic.” She then uses theories of maternal thinking by Marianne Hirsch and Sara Ruddick to interrogate the relationship between Mrs. Hopewell and Joy/Hulga.

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