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A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
GOOD COUNTRY PEOPLE
Again, this story has a very simple structure, starts with the hired woman, moves to the proprietess, and, in this case, takes a sharp turn towards another character, the daughter, about half way though. As Mrs. Hopewell's daughter is contrasted with Mrs. Freeman's daughters, it becomes clear that an educated daughter with one leg is much harder to handle than two teenagers, one of them pregnant. Mrs. Freeman, refusing to be as innocent as Mrs. Hopewell, has Joy/Hulga pegged, but it is Manly who Joy/Hulga must have it out with, because more is at stake in their sexually charged relation.
As with many of O'Connor's stories, the stage is set with a cast of characters that will collide most disastrously with each other. It is often the character who is supposed to be "smart" who turns out most compromised, looking more foolish than anyone. Certainly Joy is a hard character, full of herself, and yet understandably unhappy with her mother. Likewise, the simplicity of Manly is deceiving--he is a good actor with impulses much darker than Joy's. It turns out that Joy is the innocent one.
Of course the names are significant, as in all the stories, and indicate the Themes to be dealt with. The funniest her may be "Manly Pointer," whose idea of seduction goes far beyond Joy's.
With the mix of characters, this story is the funniest of the book. Mrs. Hopewell's exasperation with her daughter, and her daughter's smart quips and parries add to the bemused tone of the piece. And, of course, it is Mrs. Freeman who has the last word.
Many of the Themes that appear in other stories are here, as well. "Good country people," are difficult for the women in these stories to find. But this story most directly pits innocence against education. Good country people may not be as simple as they seem. And someone with a Ph.D. is not necessarily smart. In essence, Joy is much more innocent than Manly. And Mrs. Freeman's cynical insightfulness may denote a lack of free thought, while Mrs. Hopewell seems to have given up hope on many fronts. Joy is also the opposite of that, and Hulga actually has some feelings. There are complicated levels of depth in everyone.