Term Paper: Good Country People by Flannery

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[. . .] Instead, it is a case of Hulga wanting to believe so strongly that she suspends her intelligence. She allows herself not to think and accepts things on the surface. This is the reason that Manley is able to fool them, because he takes advantage of what people want to see.

The tension is built for the meeting of the two that is central to the conflict, as Hulga imagines what it will be like. She imagines it as a significant event capable of changing her life and imagines herself being able to seduce Manley. She also expects Manley to feel remorse and believes that she will take his remorse and change it into "a deeper understanding of life." This sets the meeting of the two to be the central conflict of the story, with the significance to Hulga making it a turning point of her life. This passage also again includes perceptions, with Hulga imagining herself as being far removed from the girl that has been presented so far. The reader is also aware that things are not what they seem. Manley has already been suggested to be a character that is not what he appears to be. The reader may be able to believe that Hulga might seduce the boy, but is not able to believe that the boy will feel remorse. This offers a hint of what is to come.

In the barn, Manley is seen to again trick Hulga, using her own character against her. Wanting to go into the loft he says, "it's too bad we can't go up there." As Manley no doubt predicted, the reaction of Hulga, is to show him that she can climb up there. Once in the loft, Manley begins kissing her and takes off her glasses. The glasses and the concept of blindness than reoccur as Hulga says, "We are all damned... But some of us have taken off our blindfolds and see that there's nothing to see. It's a kind of salvation." The irony of this statement is, that while Hulga is claiming to see more clearly, she is really just hiding in her intellectual beliefs. This is emphasized by the way she thinks intellectually while being kissed, "Her mind, throughout this, never stopped or lost itself for a second to her feelings." Later, Hulga is described thinking, "She had seduced him without even making up her mind to try." The error in this thinking is apparent, with the situation having nothing to do with Hulga's ability to seduce him. It is Hulga that has been seduced, by Manley's ability to manipulate her actions. Hulga, remaining aloof and thinking that she is above him and the situation, is unable to see what is really happening.

Manley then says that he wants to see where the leg joins up. This shocks Hulga and it is described how it brings back the shame she feels. It is also described that, "Education had removed the last traces of that as a good surgeon scrapes for cancer." This reaffirms the role that education plays for Hulga. Her education is something she allows herself to hide behind. It does not hide the shame or her feelings, it simply allows her to constantly ignore these feelings. Hulga agrees to show Manley her leg after deciding that "for the first time in her life she was face-to-face with real innocence." The reader is aware of the error in this thinking, realizing that Manley is far from innocent. Again this shows how Hulga is able to be manipulated because of her own perceptions that she is so focused on she is unable to question them.

The twist in the story is finally revealed where Manley opens the case and reveals that it does not contain Bibles, but whiskey, cards and an artificial leg. Hulga is shocked and asks, "Aren't you just good country people?" This statement shows that despite her belief that she is more intelligent than Mrs. Hopewell, she makes the same error in judgment. Manley's real character is revealed at this point. The reader was already mostly aware that Manley was not the simple Bible salesman he appeared to be, with this scene finally revealing the truth of that. This scene also shows just how much Hulga was fooled by him.

The story takes an especially cruel turn where Manley leaves with the leg, telling Hulga how he does this often. He tells Hulga that he has "gotten a lot of interesting things... one time I got a woman's glass eye this way." This reference to the eye is another link to the idea of perception and what people see. Manley also says to Hulga, "You ain't so smart. I been believing in nothing ever since I was born." This statement is important in expressing the theme. It shows that Hulga was not able to see things for what they were. Manley is smarter in a way because he doesn't believe in anything. In the case of Hulga and Mrs. Hopewell, believing in things prevented them from exercising proper judgment. Both made bad decisions based on their assumptions. Without these beliefs, Manley is not fooled by people. While Manley is not a good person, he is a smart one and does see the reality of situations. Manley was not fooled by the perceptions that Hulga and Mrs. Hopewell tried to create, but instead was able to see right through them and use them to his advantage. This shows how blindly accepting beliefs is actually a hindrance to clear thinking.

It is relevant also, that Hulga is left without her glasses. This is ironic because while Hulga cannot physically see clearly, she is now able to see the reality of the situation more clearly. The glasses can be seen as a reference to her overall attitudes and perceptions. It is only by removing these attitudes and perceptions that she can see clearly. This is the end of the conflict for Hulga and the situation has been resolved. Rather than be the seducer, Hulga has been seduced and taken advantage of. However, she has also become painfully aware of the error in her thinking. While this may seem like a cruel ending, it is really a hopeful one, since now Hulga has been made aware of the perceptions she was hiding behind, she may be able to finally overcome her problems and grow up.

Finally, the story returns to Mrs. Hopewell, who watched the "nice dull young man" walk across the meadow. Mrs. Hopewell refers to him as simple and the story finishes with Mrs. Hopewell saying, "Some can't be that simple... I know I never could." The irony is that Mrs. Hopewell is far simpler than the boy and far less aware of the reality of the world. While Hulga has been forced to realize the error in her thinking, Mrs. Hopewell has not. The reader then has seen what can happen when people hide behind their own cliched perceptions instead of thinking clearly about situations. Hulga and the reader have learnt from this. The reader is left to wonder whether Mrs. Hopewell will also learn from the experience or whether she will continue as she is. By ending with Mrs. Hopewell making a statement that is clearly wrong, the theme is reinforced, effectively completing a story and tying it back to the beginning. [END OF PREVIEW]

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