Flannery OConnors Influence on ” Good Country People” The Flannery OConnor has been one of Americas favorite writers because of her unusual approach to fiction as compared to other writers. She wrote in a Southern Gothic style but gave her characters an extra element of grotesque. As a result, her stories hold a fascination for the reader even though there isnt much comfort to be found in them. In stories such as ” Good Country People,” OConnors preoccupation with faith, strangeness and the South are very clear.
Although the exact location of the action of ” Good Country People” is not given, it is considered to be someplace in Georgia, the state where OConnor spent most of her life. The Hopewell farm is in a somewhat rural area. This is known because of the fact that Joy-Hulga lost her leg in a hunting accident when she was 10, something girls arent normally a part of unless they live in the country, and that Manley Pointer was able to leave her, abandoned and legless, in an old barn where no one would be likely to hear her cries for help. This is important to OConnors stories because of the tradition she pulls from: “” The Southern writer is forced from all sides to make his gaze extend beyond the surface, beyond mere problems, until it touches that realm which is the concern of prophets and poets.” Simply placing her stories in the South immediately associates her work with the strong tradition coming out of the South at that time and programs her readers to look for the deeper meanings.
Other than her love of the South, one can also see OConnors preoccupation with the grotesque in this story. Joy has changed her name to Hulga in a deliberate attempt to make her name match her ugly self-image. This is, to some degree, a reflection of OConnors struggle with lupus, an illness that wasnt well understood at that time but that can cause ugly red splotches on the face and elsewhere and that causes unexplained pain at random. She usually explained this interest in another way though: ” Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.” Although she watched her father die of the disease at a young age and struggled with it herself for 14 years, OConnor always tried to keep it in perspective.
Part of the reason she was able to keep it in perspective so well was because of the deep nature of her Catholic faith, elements of which also play a big role in this story. The surface action of the story is that of a young Bible salesman coming to the Hopewell farm, charming the Protestant mother into believing he is ” good country people” and interested in the grotesque atheist Hulga up to the point when he takes her virginity, her false leg and her glasses while he leaves her stranded in an isolated, empty barn. However, what the story is really about is both the Hopewell women discovering the weakness of their respective faiths. OConnor explained that her ” stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism.” Mrs. Hopewell will necessarily lose her faith in ” good country people” when her daughter doesnt return from going out with the Bible salesman and Hulga has already lost her faith in nothing at the end of the story, when she realizes shes been left on her own.
Flannery OConnors life and experience is clearly reflected in her work. Clearly evident in her biography are many of the important elements and themes one can find in her short stories. The South is important not just because of where she was raised, but also because of the literary tradition she could pull from. The grotesque was part of Southern Gothic literature but was also a reflection of her long-time battle with lupus. Finally, her deep faith in her religion emerges as a constant exploration of the conversion experiences of her characters.
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OConnor, Flannery. The Habit of Being. Ed. Sally Fitzgerald. New York: Farrar, 1979. Print.
O’Connor, Flannery. “ Good Country People.” The Complete Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990, pp. 271-91. Print.