Naïveté in Flannery O'Connor’s Good Country People Essay

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Naïveté in Flannery O'Connor’s Good Country People

In "Good Country People," Flannery O'Connor skillfully presents a story from a third-person point of view, in which the protagonist, Joy-Hulga, believes that she is not one of those good country people. Joy is an intelligent and educated but emotionally troubled young woman, struggling to live in a farm environment deep in the countryside of the southeast United States, where she feels that she does not belong. Considering herself intellectually superior to the story's other characters, she experiences an epiphany that may lead her to reconsider her assumptions. Her experience marks a personal transition for her and constitutes the story's theme--the passage from naïveté to
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Joy has learned to protect herself from feeling ostracized by being critical of other people, which is an immature means of clinging to some form of self-esteem.

For example, she resents her mother for being overly protective and sententious. In exasperation, she criticizes Mrs. Hopewell, yelling, "Woman! Do you ever look inside? Do you ever look inside and see what you are not?" (184). Joy-Hulga is also cynical about the simple-mindedness of Mrs. Freeman, an acquaintance of her mother. Mrs. Freeman's conversation consists mainly of gossip about her daughters, whom Joy condescendingly refers to as "Glycerin and Caramel" (181). Joy defends her assumptions of intellectual superiority with the PhD she has earned, and claims that, if it were not for her heart condition, "she would be far from these red hills and good country people" (184).

It is questionable as to whether Joy truly believes in the intellectual status that she tries to claim for herself. At the same time she stakes out the respect due a scholar, she takes on the identity of a child, which is how she continues to exist in her mother's mind. She intentionally presents herself as a child, "[going] about all day in a six-year-old skirt and a yellow sweat shirt with a faded cowboy on a horse embossed on it... Mrs. Hopewell thought [this] was idiotic and showed simply that [Joy} was still a child" (184).

Joy-Hulga also intentionally makes an atrocious noise as she lumbers around. Neither
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