Good Country People Symbolism

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St. Cyril of Jerusalem made the analogy that life is like a road that must be traveled with a dragon on the side, waiting to devour any who stray off the road. Within the analogy, the dragon represents the personal temptations everyone has struggled to overcome in order to reach God, who waits at the end of the road. Although everyone struggles with their own personal temptations, most can be put into one of the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, anger, sloth, envy, lust, and gluttony. Flannery O’Connor focused on these in her short stories by creating characters that embodied certain sins. In some of her most known stories, such as “Good Country People,” “The Life You Save May be Your Own,’’ and “The Displaced Person,” she focused on pride, greed, and anger, respectively. In “Good Country People,” Joy’s pride and…show more content…
Shiftlet’s greed for his own car ultimately leads to his symbolic removal from this earth. Although he claims to be a man of God, Shiftlet marries a deaf and dumb girl in order to get her mother’s car. After leaving her at a roadside diner, he drives on, feeling like a man who has a duty to others. As a result, he picks up a boy hitchhiker who calls his mother a “pole-cat” (100). After the encounter, Shiftlet “felt that the rottenness of the world was about to engulf him” and prayed that the Lord would “break forth and wash the slime from the earth” (102). Minutes after he says that, a cloud of rain begins to pour onto him, representing that he is in fact the slime of the earth. Although his punishment was not physical like Joy’s, it nonetheless symbolizes what happens to those whose greed goes unchecked. Through him, O’Connor made the point that those who pretended to be Christian but were still greedy would ultimately get what they wished upon others. Just as Shiftlet’s use of other people to achieve his own end eventually caught up to him, it also caught up to both Mr. Shortley and Mrs.
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