“Achieved blindness by an act of will”: O’Connor’s “Good Country” Women (3/20/11)

30 Sep

O’Connor conveys women as attempting to find a way out within the world of “Good Country People.” Particularly the character of Hulga (Joy) is the most interesting. Throughout the text, we are introduced to several ways in which Hulga is attempting to overcome the pressure from Mrs. Hopewell (her mother) to be a domesticated, racist, classist, God-fearing woman. Joy has pursued an education, holding a PhD. and several other degrees.

            “Mrs. Hopewell thought it was nice for little girls to go to school to have a good time, but Joy had gone through,” (5). Hopewell views that educating women is “nice,” a great thought or gesture toward the female community without proper recognition of the importance of an education for all people. She wants girls to “have a good time” in school, instead of learning and bettering themselves. Within the Bible belt lifestyle that O’Connor hails from, this mentality was the majority. In the Bible, we are given several instances of male dominance; the blaming of sin on Eve by Adam, the fact that the vast majority of the books are written by a majority male prophet, or how the female characters that are within the Bible have severely domesticated roles. If a female has “gone through” education to receive a doctorate, it’s been almost continually confirmed that any educated person will “abandon all faith into secularity.” This comes from the story of Adam and Eve, as well, how the tree of the knowledge of good and evil rests at the center of Eden’s temptations. Knowledge rests at the center of doubt; the amount of information you are introduced to naturally spurs more questions. Christian theorists thrive on this dichotomy, and I think O’Connor is working against this.

            However, I begin to doubt O’Connor’s intentions when she gives Hulga over to the whiskey-drinking Bible salesman. “During the night she had imagined that she seduced him… took all his shame away and turned it into something useful” (12). Hulga soon finds out that the Bible salesman is far from innocent, carrying whiskey and nudey cards in a Bible. His greater obsession with her leg over her show’s his oppression toward her, and how he refuses to give it back not only suggests male dominance but also that he may be attempting to rape her. Neither inference is confirmed but suggested enough to build from. She’s his prize, “something different,” and “he gazed at her as if the fantastic animal at the zoo had put its paw through the bars and given him a loving poke” (14). Sometimes I think she’s trying to win over him with her knowledge at points: “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” (16). However, I’m quickly redirected to O’Connor’s decision to make her have a wooden leg. Hulga has seemingly conquered and overcame most of the oppression in her life, but she has no way of getting down from that barn as the salesman has stolen her leg. O’Connor put her in the situation where it’s obvious to infer rape, essentially the absolute height of oppression.

            Mrs. Freeman is also very submissive, taking all of the gossip that Mrs. Hopewell deals to her throughout the beginning of the text. I infer that Mrs. Freeman is either black or of a lower class just by Mrs. Hopewell’s angered presence. Yet, Hopewell is the one who is exposed as being the height of ignorance and irony, by claiming the Bible salesman to be “refreshing… a nice young man” (9). While Mrs. Hopewell and the Bible salesman are O’Connor’s vehicles for oppression, I don’t personally see any hope for neither Mrs. Freeman nor Hulga. O’Connor creates an environment where we are introduced to a presumably strong character, Hulga, and our hopes for her are never carried over. Her life is squelched into a subordinate role by the Bible belt in which she lives. 

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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Scholarly Essays/Responses


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