Published as part of the short story collection in 1955, “Good Country People” considered one of the greatest stories by Flannery O’Connor. Through the tale given by the Bible salesman visiting the farm of a troubled family, the book is rich in themes such as faith and belief and the explorations of human nature.
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This story begins on a farm located in Georgia. The reader encounters to Mrs. Freeman described as a nosey busybody. She does not admit when on the wrong. Mrs. Freeman is living on this farm and offers assistance to the owner, Mrs. Hopewell. They run the household as the husband, Mr. Freeman, attends to his farm duties. Mrs. Hopewell perceives Mr. Freemans and his family as “good country people.” She uses the phrase to refer to those who lead a decent and humble life in her view.
As they take breakfast every morning, Mrs. Hopewell and Freeman converse over what they consider the crucial matters. On this particular morning, Mrs. Hopewell’s 32-year-old daughter avoids the talk by locking herself in the bathroom. She late reappears to cook eggs. Mrs. Hopewell named the girl “Joy” only to become surprised when the daughter changed the name to “Hulga” through the legal mechanisms. Hulga’s change of name was because she felt her previous name was ugly. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hopewell refused to use the new name to refer to her daughter. She feels she should not have permitted her daughter to pursue a Ph.D. in Philosophy. Mrs. Hopewell blames daughter’s transformation in attitude and the emergence of her atheist beliefs. However, she has to tolerate the anger and resentment from Hulga as the daughter has a heart condition which means a low probability of Hulga reaching the age of 45. Hulga also needs the assistance and care from her mother as because she broke her leg at ten during a hunting accident and. Because of that, she never had the normal fun children have when growing up
When Mrs. Freeman talks of her daughter of 15 years who is married and pregnant, Mrs. Hopewell cannot help but think of the love life of her daughter. Mrs. Hopewell feels ashamed that Hulga has never shown any interest in the men around as she considers them unintelligent. Mrs. Hopewell wonders if there could be anything going on between Hulga and the Bible salesman. The man had won Mrs. Hopewell’s admiration by coming out as a rural lad full of simplicity. On the other hand, Hulga was unimpressed and made attempts to persuade the mother to chase the man to let them take their dinner peacefully. However, there was a change in attitude when the man said he had a heart condition. Hulga wept as the thought of meeting a man who understood her illness crossed her mind. She now insisted the man was free to join them in the dinner table. Feeling superior, she ignored him throughout their meal. Mrs. Hopewell talked to the salesman for 2 hours. That was proof she respected good people. As the man was leaving, she was surprised when she saw him talking to Hulga.
Back to the current events, Hulga leaves her room as she remembers entertaining the thoughts of the conversation with the salesman as she was sleeping. During the conversation, the man had referred her as “brave” and “sweet.” He also liked girls wearing glasses as it made them look intelligent and more aware of themselves. The flattery augured well with Hulga’s feeling of superiority. Hulga had agreed to his picnic invitation. When they meet up, she feels offended by the inquiry of where the prosthetic leg is joined to her body. Hulga forgives him though. Hulga had a private plan to corrupt what she perceives as the naïve Christian faith by trying to seduce him. To her shock, he makes the first move and kisses her. Experience is unremarkable.
As they climb the hayloft and kiss, the salesman tries to persuade Hulga to declare her love for him. Once learns how to remove Hulga’s leg, he takes it and refuses to give it back. It is now apparent that it not him who is naïve but Hulga. Moreover, he removes a Bible with a hollow containing a whiskey flask, condoms, and pornographic cards. The salesman insists he has to have sex with Hulga before returning her leg. He even laughs at Hulga’s assumption that he is a true Christian. He descends from the hayloft still carrying Hulga’s leg. He also makes a mockery of her claiming Hulga is not superior to him. Hulga is left unable descend the hayloft without the prosthetic leg. Both Mrs. Hopewell and Freeman feel they are superior to the “country boy.” They are unaware of how he has made a fool of them as they watch him leave. Get the plot overview.