Short Story #235 Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor

Title:  Good Country People 

Author:  Flannery O'Connor

Summary

Photo of Flannery O'Connor.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Flannery-O'Connor_1947.jpg
Mrs. Hopewell has a daughter name, Joy, who has an artificial leg due to a hunting accident when she was 10.  She also has lodgers including Mrs. Freeman, her husband, and their two daughters.  Each morning Mrs. Freeman would come for a visit and morning chat while Joy got dressed.  Joy had a doctorates and was thirty two but single--she had also renamed herself at 21 to Hulga.  By contrast, Freeman's daughters were in their teens--one pregnant and the other with ample suitors.  Mrs. Freeman is a nosy person and thus, Mrs. Hopewell has found a way of dealing with her in controlled situations such as breakfast.  In fact, among Joy-Hulga, Mrs. Freedman, and Mrs. Hopewell, there is various tension and jealousies.  Each tries in some way to outrank the other.  One day, a door-to-door Bible salesman shows up. The man, Manley Pointer works his way into the house and starts pitching them on why they need a Bible.  Mrs. Hopewell deals mostly with Pointer but Joy is standing nearby listening.  Pointer explains that he's doing it because he has a heart condition and doesn't know how much longer he will live.  Joy too has been described with a heart condition.  Upon hearing this, Mrs. Hopewell invites him to dinner.  Joy largely ignores him throughout the meal.  When he leaves, Joy happens to be outside and he speaks with her before going.  They chat and he begins flirting with her.  He slowly wins her over with kindness and charm and asks her to a picnic the following day.  She agrees and looks forward to the meeting.  The next day, she waits for him and he arrives.  They begin to walk.  He slowly begins to prob her about her leg while she takes shots at God.  At one point, he pulls her close and kisses her which she had never experienced.  They wander a bit an eventually make their way into a barn and into the upper level after he makes a statement saying that she can't make it up there.  In climbing up, he insists on still bringing his bag of Bibles.  They begin to make out and he sneakily puts her glasses in his pocket.  He insists that she says she loves him.  She begins to condescend to him here and claims that she can see through things.  She finally admits to loving him in a sense but for the sake of honesty, she must also tell him that she's thirty (though actually 32).  He insists that she prove her love by showing the wooden leg.  She is angered by this request and refuses.  He takes this as proof that she is just toying with him and she finally acquiesces.  When she shows him how to take the leg off, he takes it away and he begins to make advances on her.  She feels powerless without it and keeps insisting that he return it.  He then takes out cards, whiskey, and condoms to her further dismay.  They shout back and forth about the hypocrisy in each and the man goes further to explain that he's done this plenty of times and stolen different things from different people.  He runs off with the leg.  Meanwhile back at home Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman are discussing the Bible salesman.  Mrs. Hopewell remarks that he was so simple but Mrs. Freeman has trouble believing he was that simple.

Reflection

The more I read of O'Connor, the more I like.  In fact, one of the anthologies that I bought this year was of her collected short stories that I plan to read.  This was a curious story in that there was so much going on between Hopewell and Freeman and then between Pointer and Joy that it takes re-reading to get it all.  The names alone are worth exploring and considering but also the relationships between children and parents.  Finally, the dynamics between Joy and Pointer are fascinating in that her intelligence renders her powerless since he plays upon her weaknesses.  

Short Story #235 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/28/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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