Flannery O’Connor wrote extensively about the South. She was devoutly religious – a Catholic who went to mass every day. She loved writing about odd, offbeat characters, and although her humor was quite dark, she loved poking fun at hypocrites and people who had not thought things through. The main character here is Joy-Hulga. Most readers find her to be a thoroughly dislikable character. She becomes a victim of Manley Pointer, a Bible salesman. Characters seemed to be O’Connor’s focus in many of her literary works. Joy-Hulga, Manley Pointer, and Mrs. Hopewell are the three main characters. What are each of these characters like? What motivates them? Mrs. Hopewell is obviously less of a focus than Joy-Hulga and Manley, but don’t completely disregard her. She and Manley have “street smarts” while Joy-Hulga has “book smarts.” Mrs. Hopewell isn’t a criminal like Manley, but she knows how to make life work for her in a practical way. She’s a good manager as indicated in her handling of the Freemans. She has money and business sense.
Manley is uneducated, but he is able to completely con Joy-Hulga, who has a PhD. Their conversation at the end of the story is pivotal. It reveals a lot about both characters. What do you think O’Connor wanted readers to consider in giving us two pretty detestable main characters?
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An observation, since I’ve been teaching this story for so long: Don’t go beyond the text in interpreting the story. For example, an analysis of Manley’s criminality is a perfectly valid thing to discuss. But avoid outlandish theories like one student in the past who said that Manley might have been building his own woman. Sure, at the end of this story he’s carrying around a couple of artificial parts, but there’s no evidence at all that he has any particular plans in that direction. There’s plenty to talk about that you can support with specific evidence from the story, so just stick with topics and ideas that can be supported with clear evidence from the story.
POSSIBLE ESSAY IDEAS:
– Compare/contrast mother-daughter relationships in “Good Country People” and “Everyday Use”
– Compare/contrast “street smarts” and “book smarts” in the story. These are pretty common terms, but if you’re not familiar with their meanings, email me, and I’ll be glad to explain
– Compare/contrast mothering styles in “Good Country People” and “Everyday Use’
Compare/contrast “street smarts” and “book smarts” in the story seems to be the best topic to me if you want to do that one. no outside sources needed, just read the link i put below. Thank you!!
Good Country people: Click here to read “Good Country People”URL