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Good Country People: Illusion Or Truth? Essay, Research Paper

“Never let your schooling get in the way of your education”

-Mark Twain

“Good Country People”, by Flannery O?Connor, presents us with a look into the monotonous lives of three women living together on a rural farm. All three women are set in their old-fashioned ways, having experienced very little of life, out on the farm. A bible salesman named Manley Pointer, appearing like nothing more than simple, “good country people”(1), pays them a visit one day. It turns out that this simple countryboy is actually a brilliant con artist who scams the pretentious daughter, Hulga (also known as Joy) into removing her wooden leg, which he proceeds to steal. A great change in Hulga is triggered by her experience with Manley Pointer. Although it was a cruel scam, the bible salesman helps her to see the truth about her education and human nature. Hulga realizes that in addition to book smarts, people skills are also crucial in navigating the real world.

Hulga has been to college for many years, earning a Ph.D. in Philosophy. Coming from such a rural background, she feels that her education raises her status in the intellectual world, and therefore life in general, above anyone not as educated as she is. “You poor baby?it?s just as well you don?t understand”(404). The young woman fails to see that there is much more to life than what you can learn in a book. Due to a heart condition, however, Hulga is forced to remain home on the farm, instead of being in an academic setting where her education would be recognized and encouraged. This attitude that she is above most other people isolates Hulga from everyone around her. Even her mother comments that “she didn?t like dogs or cats or birds or flowers or nature or nice men. She looked at nice men as if she could smell their stupidity”(396). Hulga has very little interaction with anyone at all, besides her mother and their tenant Mrs. Freeman. Hulga failed to see the idea shown in the above Mark Twain quote.

Hulga, throughout her life has been starved for affection and loving attention. Pointer is able to get her to succumb to his wishes so easily because she is amazed that someone sincerely wants to be with her, or so it seems. Ever since she was ten, she has had her wooden stump leg, and her heart problem to live with. More recently, Hulga?s weight problem is another obstacle that adds to her isolation. Combined with her condescending attitude, these encumbrances have succeeded to separate her from mainstream society. Pointer realizes this and is able to use it to his advantage; he knows all the right things to say to her. In the hayloft, Hulga hears fond admiration for what is quite possibly one of the first times in her life. As a result, the customarily very independent, strong-willed Hulga is completely under the control of an uneducated man half her age. “It?s what makes you different. You ain?t like anybody else?.She decided that for the first time in her life, she was face to face with real innocence. This boy, with an instinct that came beyond wisdom, had touched the truth about her”(404). Pointer is one of the few people in her life who was able to see the real Hulga; he saw through the cold fa?ade.

Thanks to Mr. Pointer, Hulga was able to see the truth about her situation in the world?book smarts won?t help you at all without people skills and common sense. Up till the very end, however, she was unable to come to grips with the fact that smart, educated Hulga had been deceived by someone who appeared to be nothing more than a simple country boy. Being stranded in the loft, however, forced Hulga to realize that people sometimes need to depend on each other. Something else she realized is that in life, book smarts mean very little compared with experience and knowledge of the real world

This issue of having real world smarts as well as book smarts is especially relevant to the modern day higher education student. With all the pressure surrounding schoolwork, it is easy to get caught up in academics and lose sight of the world around you. Achieving a balance between school work and real world education is key to success in this world. College students these days must try to find their own personal “Manley Pointer”, in order to remind themselves of the balance necessary in life.


O?connor, Flannery. “Good Country People” The Bedford Introduction To Literature, 5th ed. Ed, Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin?s,1999. 393-406

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