Religious Themes and Symbols in “Good Country People”.
At first sight, “Good Country People” is nothing more than a story about a young man named Manly Pointer who, in the course of a romantic interlude in the barn, steals the artificial leg of Hulga Hopewell. At a closer look, it is apparent that O”Connor is urging the reader to take a look at issues of faith and religion, through the life of Hulga Hopewell. Hulga, a character who is basically a nihilist, questions her religious stance after having an experience with Manly Pointer, who is supposedly a good Christian man. With the aid of symbolism, O”Connor is able to convey a message of faith, and one questioning their particular view on God. .
The theme of religion and faith has been widely discussed by many writers who have studdies O”Connor’s work. “Good Country People” deals almost exclusively with characters that have no faith in God. Author David Eggenschwiler views Hulga as one of the most perplexing of O’Connor’s demonic characters. Hulga supports her anti-God views through her scientific belief in seeking the knowledge of nothingness (52, 68). Hugh Holman theorizes that O’Connor created Hulga as a backlash toward the scientific thinking that was displacing traditional views in the South during the early fifties (79). However, Ralph C. Wood cites the nihilism displayed in the Bible salesman as being far worse than Hulga’s atheism since it discounts even common moral principles as being useless (100). After falling for the Bible salesman’s false disguise as a righteous Christian, Hulga’s faith in science and disbelief in God .
provides her with little protection from someone who has even fewer moral principles.
O”Connor persists in referring to three symbols concerning Hulga: her artificial leg, the .
change of her name from Joy to Hulga, and her PhD. Hulga’s artificial leg is a symbol of her faith. It is her “crutch” in a sense.