Question: How did Joy ‘ Hulga’ end up where she did?
Hulga Hopewell’s character is unique in “Good Country People”. She is a female intellectual who is a cripple, and has no meaningful relationship with anyone. Her own mother does not approve of her Ph.D. degree, and neither does she approve of anything her daughter does or says. Hence, Hulga is alone, unappreciated, trapped in her own beliefs of atheism, and does not like how her mother treats her; and appreciate other girls around her neighbourhood. This is the predicament in which Hulga finds herself. What caused all this?

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Hulga and her mother are simple-minded. They do not believe that there is good and evil in the world. All they do is hope for good things; as the name they share says. They simply “hope well”. This view of the world misleads both of them as they meet the realities of the world. Mrs Hopewell’s isolates herself from her daughter through the self-made world she lives in; constantly mouthing clichéd maxims. She cannot understand her daughter even though she poses herself as a person who is all-accepting, being a compassionate catholic. She dismisses her daughter as having a Ph.D. but rebellious and having an immature mind. The Ph.D. is the problem that drives the two women apart. She believes the degree did not bring Hulga out, and she is glad Hulga has no more excuse to go back to school again.

Hulga’s behaviour embarrasses her mother, and makes her angry. However, her mother must accept and even sympathise with her daughter because she is physically disabled. The wooden leg Hulga has was as a result of a hunting accident that cost her, her leg when she was just ten years old. She also has a heart condition which means she will not live to see her fortieth birthday. All these misfortunes are compounded by her mother’s attitude towards the Freeman girls. She likes them and praises them at every chance but is ashamed of her daughter. This makes Hulga angry. She therefore withdraws into herself. Eventually, her beliefs and happiness are taken away from her by Pointer, and she has nothing to do about it, but change her life.

  • O’Connor, F. (1955). Good Country People. In F. O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find. New York.