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Flaws In Flannery O Connor's Good Country People

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Flannery O’Connor’s stories always contain a flawed character that is usually crippled in a spiritual or a moral sense to embody an ongoing issue in her time through that flaw. In O’Connor’s story, “Good Country People,” the protagonist’s physical and spiritual flaws represent weaknesses in a certain movement that swept up the early-mid 20th Century: the movement of Nihilism. She invalidates Nihilism through Joy’s (who changed her name to Hulga) three physical imperfections and at her “moment of grace” in which she loses her artificial leg. Hulga has a weak heart, artificial leg, and slightly defective eyesight. While they are physical flaws, these symbolize “her emotional, intellectual, and spiritual impairments” (Oliver 234). O’Connor uses…show more content…
He causes Hulga to have an epiphanal moment about her beliefs when he removes her eyeglasses, steals her leg, and breaks her heart. When the two enter the barn, they begin a process of ritualistic cleansing. He first takes off her eyeglasses when they “got in his way” of his barrage of kisses (CS 295). Flannery symbolizes this theft as an ironic changing of view for Hulga: she loses her logical eyeglasses to gain a more emotional way of seeing. This change goes unnoticed by Hulga as she “seldom paid any close attention to her surroundings” (296), causing her to be dependent on Manly for sight. He then asks for her to remove her leg, but she finds this difficult to do because she “was as sensitive about the artificial leg as a peacock about his tail… she took care of it as someone else would his soul” (CS 297). This brief moment of shyness and innocence will begin her transition away from Nihilism, since the leg is the embodiment of her precious beliefs. The cleansing begins when this leg is removed and taken away from Hulga, who now finds herself “surrendering to him completely… losing her own life and finding it again, miraculously, in his” (CS 297). She is being renewed through complete dependence on him, balancing on him instead of her unsteady, artificial Nihilism. During this, she begins to experience a rush of true feelings outside of her Nihilism. She has not felt this way since she was twelve, as her brain “seemed to have stopped thinking all together” and her face “changed with different expressions back and forth” (CS 298). She has been depraved of emotion, having lived so devoutly in the void of Nihilism for so long. However, near the end of the ritual, Manly ironically and abruptly crushes Hulga after discovering her plan to break his heart by stealing away her leg, glasses, and breaking her heart, forcing her to face the emptiness of her emotional, intellectual, and spiritual life (Oliver
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