Joy-Hulga's Hierarchies In Flannery O Connor

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Hierarchies have been prominent throughout human history. Whether it be in the great British Empire as its aristocracy or in post-Civil War America as its segregation policies, society has always attempted to and often succeeded with creating a pecking order that allowed the higher-ups to mistreat those below them without any sense of guilt. Flannery O’Connor incorporates these hierarchies within many of her narratives found in The Complete Stories and exhibits them through the mindsets and actions of main characters. The Partridge Festival, Good Country People, Everything That Rises Must Converge, and Revelation all feature main characters that believe they are innately better than those around them because of a hierarchy they have established…show more content…
Although the hierarchy that belongs to this story’s main character, Joy-Hulga, isn’t as polarized towards independence, it is very similar to Calhoun’s hierarchy because of her belief that so called ‘good country people’ don’t have the capacity for intellectual thought, just like Calhoun felt about the Partridge citizens. However, while Calhoun’s hierarchy and sense of superiority draw from his appreciation of independence and nonconformity, Joy-Hulga’s hierarchy resides in the artificial, and thereby, her wooden leg to an extent. Joy-Hulga prides herself in her intellect, which is validated by her “Ph.D. in philosophy” (276), but she also uses the connotation of superiority with a Ph.D. to justify her aversion to those she deems inferior, as shown by how it’s stated that “she looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity” (276). Her sense of superiority, and thereby her hierarchy that supplies her superiority, is captured within her belief that “she [could Manley Pointer’s] remorse in hand and [change] it into a deeper understanding of life” (284). Her predilection to viewing people like Manley Pointer as inferior translates into a self-isolation prior to Manley Pointer’s intrusion into her life. As described by Mrs. Hopewell, her mother, Joy-Hulga rarely tries to connect with others, or rather, to branch out from herself; Joy-Hulga seemed to grow “less like other people and more like herself--bloated, rude, and squint-eyed” (276). Distinctly, Joy-Hulga’s hierarchy is one that has no room for anyone else at the top, and it places herself at the highest tier, making her untouchable and infallible in her mind. Because of her hierarchy that lends to an isolationary sense of superiority, Joy-Hulga is actually rather unfamiliar with social interaction, and because she assumes her superior position, she is further blinded to any guile
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