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A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
GOOD COUNTRY PEOPLE
Mrs. Hopewell owns and runs a farm and keeps hired help. She is also afraid of her daughter, who lives with her. Mrs. Hopewell is not a religious woman, but she does have some faith that all will be well--with hard work and decent decision making and a little pleasantness to sweeten things up. She is somewhat resigned to her fate, trying to keep the farm going and keeping her daughter alive.
She has only two modes, we are told in the opening lines--forward and reverse. Mrs. Freeman is a talker and a busy-body, and knows how everything should be and which way it should go. She is very obsequious with her employer. She has two daughters--Gynese and Carramae--and a husband who works for Mrs. Hopewell.
Joy (or Hulga) Hopewell
Joy got her leg shot off in a hunting accident when she was ten-- she has had a wooden leg ever since. She has gone to college and has several degrees, including a Ph.D. in philosophy. She is sullen, and has a bad heart and is expected to die young. She is also very cynical, and doesn't get along well with anyone. She is unhappy, but stays where she is.
This is not his real name, we find out late in the story. Manly is a bible salesman, and a young man with a lot of schemes on his mind. He has two personalities, and matches his wits to Hulga's. He appears simplistic and turns out conniving.
Mrs. Hopewell doesn't know what to do with her mean daughter. She is protective of her, but also had some hopes for her which become more unlikely all the time. She does not like "trashy" people and always wants to depend on "good country people" to see her through.
Protagonist and Antagonist
If Mrs. Hopewell is the protagonist, and Manly the antagonist, Joy/Hulga is both. Joy is resentful of her mother, and makes her life difficult. She also tries dropping her guard (and trusting) Manly, who takes terrible advantage of her. Manly uses both Mrs. Hopewell and Joy for his own gain or amusement.
Hulga goes on a walk with Manly to a secluded barn, in order to seduce or get seduced. He seems to like her, but also has some bizarre requests. He immediately wants her to trust him, to "love" him, to show him her artificial leg and show him how to take it off and put it back on. When she decides to trust him, the question becomes whether he is trustworthy, or out for a weird thrill.
Manly takes the leg away from Hulga, gives her a lecture about her high-flying, educated attitude, and takes off--leaving her flabbergasted, alone, on one leg, some distance from her mother's house.