Nihilism in O’Connor's Good Country People Essays

1008 Words 5 Pages
One’s attitude toward the world and life in general often proves self-destructive. Flannery O’Connor, in her short story, “Good Country People,” uses a variety of rhetoric devices such as symbolism, characterization, and irony to portray how a nihilistic philosophy of life can ultimately lead to ruin. She depicts how people tend to stereotype in ways that prevent them from thinking or seeing clearly, and how it can ultimately lead to devastating consequences.

The short story focuses on the expectations of Hulga Hopewell and the irony of her encounter with a traveling Bible salesman. Hulga, with a PhD in philosophy and a wooden leg, sees herself as an uncompromising cynic in a world of fools, and she believes she has spotted a
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It turns out, however, that he is in fact much more world-wise than Hulga – it is he that ends up seducing her, as opposed to the other way around. It is she that is left sitting alone in a hayloft without her glasses (which is a loaded image in itself, as she was “not seeing clearly” in the first place) and without her wooden leg.

Of her daughter, Mrs. Hopewell thinks, "She was brilliant but she didn't have a grain of sense" (5). This is a very telling statement. Hulga, an intellectual, would have never thought it possible for such a low-life, seemingly innocent and ignorant boy to have the mental capacity to fool her like he did, to con her out the possession most precious, dear, and personal to her. She is shocked to realize that he is not a “good country person” after all.

Neither Mrs. Hopewell nor Mrs. Freeman is an exception to this mentality. They spend their days in the kitchen criticizing everything they don’t understand. Seeing the con man in the distance, walking away with Hulga’s leg, Mrs. Hopewell points out, “Why, that looks like that nice dull young man that tried to sell me a Bible yesterday . . . I guess the world would be better off if we were all that simple” (19). Mrs. Hopewell, perhaps without any bad intentions, still is guilty of both judging others and regarding herself with an exaggerated sense of self-worth, considering herself enlightened

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