“Good Country People”

February 24, 2008

The short story is a genre requiring its own set of interpretive tools: their linguistic density rivals poetry, while their prose form offers narrative, characterization, setting, tone, and all the other analytical categories we have discussed in class. Our encounter with two examples of this form, the O’Connor and Munro short stories, coincides with our beginning the final unit of our course, on disability and illness. In addition, we will use these final weeks to focus on developing your own analytical questions, which can help you develop more sophisticated thesis arguments.

To begin thinking about the story critically, remember your existing set of analytical tools (i.e. the Analyzing Fiction handout and the modes of analysis we have developed in class activities). Think about setting, character, voice, tone, symbolism, and theme. Also, consider the questions guiding our course: How do non-normative bodies signify relations of social, economic, racial, or political power? What can we learn from thinking more critically about representations of physical difference? We have most recently focused on racial difference. Can we apply what we learned about race to disability?

For this blog post, focus on the character of Joy/Hulga and her physical traits, one of which is her artificial leg. Please think of an analytical question about this character, then try to answer it. You can use the questions above as models for an analytical question of your own, or modify those above to something more specific.

Also, please remember to bring that Analyzing Fiction handout to class tomorrow.

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22 Responses to ““Good Country People””

  1. emily111488 said

    When Hulga goes to meet the Bible seller she is confident in her intellectual and overall superiority. She even describes his breath and kisses as being “like a child’s” (401). She also proves herself when he is doubtful of her ability to climb up to the loft, which she does “expertly” (401). After the Bible seller convinces her to take off her leg though, he is able to take full advantage of her disability. Before this scene, Hulga’s disability is not very evident and does not seem to affect her life, (it is her heart condition that keeps her home), but as soon as her wooden leg is removed she becomes extremely vulnerable. When she yells at the Bible seller and “lunges for [her leg]…he pushes her down easily” (403). He is able to get away with barely any trouble and Hulga is stuck in the loft without her leg.
    In the story, although Hulga feels superior, she isn’t. Her physical difference represents her weakness.
    The way Hulga’s disability holds her back is similar to our discussion about race. For instance in Langston Hughes’s poem “Theme for English B” the narrator is a student with the same intellectual skills as his other classmates, but points out, because of his race, he is very different. He is seen differently by his teacher, and feels he must mention his race to describe himself in his essay. Similarly, Hulga thinks she is equal if not superior to all around her (in regards to her intellect), but when put in the situation with the Bible seller finds out her disability affects her life. Race and disability are both things that should not have to be used to define people, put them down, or make them feel inferior; but sadly are all of these in our society.

  2. mgraffis said

    Does Joy/Hulga use her disability to manipulate people, or does she really have an “against the world” mentality? I think that Joy is just putting on a façade in front of people to get them to leave her alone. I choose the name Joy because that is who her main beliefs are with, whereas Hulga is someone created to make people think Joy is different than she really is. Joy has a hard time with her disability, which is why she focused all her efforts on going to school studying philosophy for as long as she possibly could. It was difficult to tell that she was putting on a show at first, but her true vulnerability was shown with the boy “selling” bibles. She initially thought she had control over him like she does with most people, while she is the one who is being taken advantage of. All she wants is to be loved, and unfortunately that may have been ruined forever because of this horrible experience in the barn.

  3. amyweitz said

    In reading Flannery O’Connor’s, Good Country People, how does Joy/Hulga’s disability induce a non-normative lifestyle for her?
    Not only does Joy have an artificial leg but she is also living with a heart condition. This causes the people in her life to treat her much differently than normal. She is thought of as a child even though she is thirty-two years old. “She thought of her still as a child because it tore her heart to think that instead of the poor stout girl in her thirties who had never danced a step or had any normal good times” (392). She is babied at home by her mother and she gets away with a horrible attitude. “Mrs. Hopewell excused this attitude because of the leg” (392). Although Joy is a grown woman and has the abilities and the intelligence to act as an adult, it isn’t enforced. Her heart condition along with her leg forces her to the handicap of her mother’s home. Despite her handicap she is educated and does an abundance of reading. Joy enjoys reading philosophy and she would love to pursue it. “Joy had made it plain that if it had not been for this condition, she would be far from these red hills and good country people. She would be in a university lecturing people who knew what she was talking about” (393). Joy allows her disability to hold her back from things that she wants in life.

  4. nicole89 said

    Question: What does Hulga’s reaction to the bible boy’s desire to see her the next day say about her feelings towards herself and her disability?

    Answer:

    The fact that Hulga chooses to take up the Bible Boy and meet him at the mailbox shoes that her usual negative attitude is just a front. For her it is a defense mechanism that she uses to protect herself from the world. She knows that she is far older than him, but she chooses to lie and tells him that she is seventeen. This shows her desire for for the friendship that she has fended off for most of her life. She wants him to accept her, to like her, and this is why she puts vapex on her collar. Hulga describes, “…and as an afterthought she had put some Vapex on the collar of it since she did not own any perfume” (O’Connor 399). As they are walking it is described that Hulga walks ahead of the bible boy, as if she is trying to prove that her artificial leg is not a disability that causes her to be any different. When he wants to go to the tops story of the barn she proves that she can, “The girl gave him a contemptuous look and putting both hands on the ladder, she climbed it while he stood below, apparently awestruck” (401). She holds the control over the situation, even with her disability, and then when she caves in and lets him take off the leg she looses all control of the situation. Showing that her fake leg, what should hold her back and that which she probably subconciously believes does hold her back, ends up being the one thing that gives her power over the situation. By giving in to the Bible boy and letting him take off her fake leg she succumbs to her desires and thus loses her power.

  5. anitalundin said

    Analytical question: How does Joy/Hulga’s disability affect her standing in society, or her class, and how people act towards her?

    Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Good Country People” touches on the subjects of both disability and class. Hulga, a character in the story who is missing a leg, experiences first hand the effects of her disability on her standing in society. Her younger sisters lead normal lives as respectable citizens; one has many suitors while the other is married with a child on the way. Hulga, who even went out into the world to educate herself and is 30 years old, still lives at home with her mother and refuses to start a life of her own. She never found interest in men, either, until this story takes place. The bible salesman, who pretends to be simply “good country people” to gain the trust of Hulga and her family, takes advantage of Hulga’s disability. Because of Hulga’s lack of experience with men and people in general, she is taken aback when the young salesmen appears to take interest in her, and she immediately formed judgements and plans on manipulating him. She imagines herself “easily” seducing him, and having to “reckon with his remorse” (399). She thinks that her “True genius can get an idea across even to an inferior mind” (399). However, because of her pretentious thoughts, she does not conceive the possibility that she herself could be the victim of someone else’s deceit and trickery. The salesmen continues to woo her, to the point where she took off her artificial leg for him: “she was as sensitive about the artificial leg as a peacock about his tail. No one ever touched it but her” until “She took it off for him and put it back on again and then he took it off himself, handling it as tenderly as if it were a real one… Without the leg she felt entirely dependent on him” (402-3). In the end, he shows his true self when he steals her prosthetic leg and declares “‘I’ve gotten a lot of interesting things… One time I got a woman’s glass eye this way” (404). Despite his social position as a bible-seller, he finds himself superior to the disabled. He demonstrates his ideas about this when he deceives Hulga. Hulga’s views of herself are also challenged, because she thinks herself to be so much more intelligent than the bible salesman that it becomes her tragic flaw, and her disability is taken advantage of by someone of lower standing in society.

  6. alison721 said

    Can we apply what we learned about race to disability?

    The theme of being disabled in Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” is similar to the theme of being colored in the previous works we have studied in this class, especially Bamboozled. Being disabled, like being colored, is misunderstood by the characters who do not essentially embody it. They believe they are able to sympathize with the outgroup but they can’t. In the end of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, the white people in the audience paint their faces black and say aloud they are “niggers”–believing they can understand and sympathize with being black–when in fact they are taking on a distorted perspective. Blackface is not what it’s like to be black at all! In Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” Mrs. Hopewell believes she understands the reasons for her daughter Hulga’s actions and choices and feels the need to explain it to people. But upon explication the reader realizes she does not understand what it’s like to have a disability.

    [Hulga’s] name was really Joy but as soon as she
    was twenty-one and away from home, she had had
    it legally changed. Mrs. Hopewell was certain
    that she had thought and thought until she had
    hit upon the ugliest name in any language. Then
    she had gone and had the beautiful name, Joy,
    changed without telling her mother until after
    she had done it (O’Connor 392).

    Later in the story the reader learns that Hulga had a reasonable explanation for the change: “her mother was not able to turn her dust into Joy, but… she had been able to turn it herself into Hulga” (393). There was deep significance to Hulga in changing her name that her mother was unable to understand.

  7. eholtzman said

    Does Joy/Helga’s non-normative body give her any sense of power in society?

    I feel that this question is debatable because it needs to be taken from Joy/Helga’s point of view and those that surround her. Joy is a bright woman and even though she suffers from a heart condition and wobbles around on a prosthetic leg, she has made it her goal to become an educated scholar. She is 32 years old yet is still babied and lives at home with her mother. Even though she was very successful in school, she is not in real life. “The girl had taken the Ph.D and this left Mrs. Hopewell at a complete loss….You could not say my daughter is a philosopher” (394). This shows that her mother is not proud of her and does not feel that her degree is anything to show for, leaving Joy/Helga powerless in society. Individuals do not take her seriously not only because of her non-normative condition but because of the choices and decisions she makes. Her mother wants to be able to say “my daughter is a nure, or my daughter is a chemical engineer” (394) but is unable to because of the “poor” scholastic choices her daughter made. If Mrs. Hopewell had made the decisions for her daughter, I think she would feel that her daugher would have a much better life.

    On the other hand, Joy/Helga attempts to be powerful but is only successful in controlling certain aspects of her life. She is able to change her name to Helga and “she considered the name her own personal affair. She arrived at it first purely on teh basis of its ugly sound and then the full genius of its fitness had stuck her” (393). This shows that yes, she is able to have power over her name, but her choise of a name is believed undesireable by others. Her mother is disgusted with that name and refuses to call her by that. She calls her Joy, proving a point that she will always have power and control over her daughter.

  8. abbeyfreed said

    How much of Hulga’s life is affected by her disability, and how much by her mentality? Unfortunately, by having only one leg, Hulga is reliant on others to help her function. However, outside of the house, she proves that she can make it on her own by climbing up the ladder in the barn. Yet, at home, her mentality is different. Hulga possesses only a false independence. While she has been educated to the highest degree, her social life is provided by her mother. Even though it must be hard only having one leg, Hulga’s self-consciousness prevents her from getting control of her life. She hides from the outside world, protects herself from getting too intimate with anyone, and basically fails to reach her true potential. By changing her name from Joy (which implies life, vigor, and happiness) to Hulga (which she chooses basically “purely on the basis of its ugly sound” (O’Connor 393)), Hulga denies any beauty of her life. She chooses to let the disability to control her, instead of the other way around.
    Hulga’s conflictions between her disability and her mentality parallel the race issues in the movie Bamboozled. How much of African American culture is caused by them being oppressed by whites, and how much of it is caused by blacks changing their mentalities to fit racial stereotypes? There is no doubt that being black hinders Delacroix’s influence and power in his office, because his co-workers do not treat him equally. However, by participating in black face, Mantan succumbs to stereotypes which are not only demeaning, but also dehumanizing. Yet he changes his mentality to find a way to accept the stereotypes.

  9. athenafoley said

    How does Joy cope with her disability, and how does the disability affect her and her relationships with others?
    When we are first introduced to Joy, the narrator states that Joy was “a large blonde girl who had an artificial leg” (390), and “she was thirty-two years old and highly educated” (391). It is interesting to see the relationship between Joy and her mother. Her mother, Mrs. Hopewell seems that she has trouble coping with Joy’s artificial leg, because she still sees Joy as a child. Joy changes her name legally to Hulga, because “she considered the name her personal affair. She had arrived at it first purely on the basis of its ugly sound and then the full genius of its fitness had struck her” (393). Joy feels that her artificial leg is what hinders her. This is why she changes her name to Hulga, because she feels that the ugliness of the name personifies who she is. It also seems that Joy feels that others look at her and treat her differently because she has an artificial leg. Joy has this tough attitude and treats everyone in the same manner. She show little emotion towards others, and usually always has a straight face. For instance, when Hulga comes into the kitchen for breakfast she “stumps” into the kitchen because “she could walk without making the awful noise but she made it–Mrs. Hopewell was certain–because it was ugly-sounding” (393). Joy has this impression that others look down upon her, as this ugly human-being and it seems that Hulga is just unhappy with herself and others.
    Although Hulga changes when she meets the boy who sells Bibles. Right away she seems intrigued with him. He tells her that he thinks “she’s brave” (399), because she has got a wooden leg. The boy wishes to go on a walk with her the next day, and Hulga without hesitation tells him that she would meet him. Hulga feels comfortable with him, because he appears to accept who she is. I think that Hulga feels flattered by him, and feels that the boy does not judge her because she has a wooden leg. Later on the next day, the boy asks her to take off her leg, and Hulga eventually does, which “was like surrendering to him completely. It was like losing her own life and finding it again, miraculously, in his” (402). Hulga feels that she can trust the boy completely. She is able to cope with her disability, because she feels that she can trust him, because he “loves her”. Unfortunately for Hulga, she finds that she cannot trust him. He in fact tricks her, takes her leg, and leaves her up in the barn helpless.

  10. bryson9 said

    The Bible boy’s reactions and comments about Hulga’s wooden leg are representative of societies view of her disability. Hulga understands that she has a disability, but deep down insider herself she is not as bitter as she depicts herself to be. When she is very cold at dinner the first night with the Bible boy she tries to divert the attention away from her by not answering her questions, but as the Bible boy opens up to her she begins to act much more openly. Hulga understands that people view her wooden leg as a disability, and her cold actions are a way for her to shy away from societies feelings about her. Society believes that her disability prevents her from leading a normal life. The Bible boy proves this point when he says,
    ‘It’s too bad we can’t go up there.”
    “Why cant we?” she asked
    “Yer leg,” he said reverently.”
    The girl gave him a contemptuous look and putting both hands on the ladder, she climbed it while he stood below, apparently awstruck” (107-110).
    You can tell that Hulga gets angry when people view her as a disability rather than a person. They look past her degree accomplishments and successes and see only her wooden leg. It’s not until the end that the Bible boy reveals that he was just using Hulga, along with others with disabilities. He prides himself on what he had done or taken from disabled people, and she is just another victim.

  11. hollyschell5 said

    How has Joy’s skewed mentality caused a decline in her social power as a result of her disability? Joy has allowed her mentality after her accident to hold her back, concerning social power. She has built herself up in her own mind as being extraordinarily intellectually elite in order to compensate for a missing leg. She looks at others “as if she could smell their stupidity” and with time she only grows “more rude and squint-eyed” towards them (394). By lowering others in her mind she attepts to bring her own ideas of herself up to normalsy. However, in doing this she has not realized that she has shut herself off from the rest of the world. And, as a result this has made her powerless because if there is no one to listen to her opinion than her opinion may as well not exist. She allows the disabilities of her leg and heart to hold her back from her dreams of becoming a proffesor. Mentally she has told herself that she is incapable due to her disabilties. It is here that the reader can see that she has broughten her underpriveleged and powerless sad life upon herself and that she is truly weak. She should not be felt sorry for because if she were honestly as mentally wise as she believes herself to be she would be lecturing away to young minds where her ideas and opinions would be cared for. In other words, if she were as wise as she believes herself to be, she wouldn’t have allowed her disabilties to get the best of her and she would be in power.

  12. anapineda said

    How does Joy\Hulga appear to others, and how does it affect her relationship with them? How does she see herself in the process?

    For Mrs. Hopewell, Joy\Hulga is simply a child that she needs to take care of her despite the fact that she was 32 and has a college degree. For her mother, her condition makes her feel like Joy is a child because she pities her. Joy was a “pour stout girl in her thirties who had never danced a step or had any normal good times” (O’Connor 392). Because of this notion, Joy seeks rebellion and changes her name to Hulga because she feels the name fits her personality. She feels ugly about herself because of her disability. Despite being educated, she feels unworthy. Her relationships with others is strained because she already has a negative perception of herself, and the majority of the people she encounters only find her interesting “because of her artificial leg” (O’Connor 393).

    When she meets Bible boy, she is ready to brush him off, but finds a connection when he reveals he has a heart condition, which is also something she has as well (396). When she finds that connection, she starts to view him in a different light and lets her guard down a littl bit because she can relate to him because he has a disability and he is “a good country boy’ (395). Throughout the play, there is the idea that country people are simple, and for the most part, they are not very bright.

    From this idea, the Bible boy takes advantage of Joy\Hulga because he plays up the stereotype and toys with Hulga’s emotions of embracing her disability, claiming he likes her because “it’s what makes you different. You ain’t like anyone else” (402). Joy\Hulga is reluctant, but she caves in because she really believes this boy likes her for her. She has lived her whole life with people who only see her as the girl with the wooden leg. They do not see her as a college graduate with Ph.D. She is just a girl with a artificial leg. However, the ironic twist is that the boy saw her exactly like everyone else, and worse, he tricked her like he has other women with disability to prove that he can trick others to do his will. It is also ironic because Hulga fell for the country boy act, and because of this stereotype, she was played for a fool.

  13. acylkowski said

    At the end of O’Connor’s short story, the editor includes several questions focusing on the characters and their traits. For this answer, I want to take question six (“Why does Manley Pointer want to steal something as seemingly useless to him as Joy-Hulga’s artificial leg?”), but change it slightly. Instead of looking at Pointer’s fascination with his ability to steal her false leg (just like he was a glass eye), I want to look at her attachment to the leg itself and how it shapes her character.

    Throughout the entirety of short story, Joy-Hulga is priding herself on the ability to be a close-minded individual. She has a PhD in philosophy and spends her time being just a generally unpleasant person (“she could walk without making the awful noise but she made it… because it was ugly-sounding” (393)). When the young, seemingly innocent boy Manley Pointer arrives, he views Joy-Hulga like “a child watching a new fantastic animal at the zoo” (399).

    In a way, she finds herself proud of the fact that something as simple as a false leg could fascinate him so much. It is as if she has ‘won’, and that “she seduced him… she very easily seduced him” (399). The artificial leg is what gives her a feeling of security–it’s what gave her an ‘upper hand’ in Pointer’s utter interest in her. Once he manages to remove her leg, she becomes a powerless personality. He gains the ability to push her around, when before it was Joy-Hulga calling the shots. Once she looses the ability to have control over her own false leg–which was a form of security as it made her such a unique individual–her character changed into a much weaker figure.

  14. msrwebb said

    In the context of difference, race and disability present much of the same issues. They strike similarities on the account that the general (and judgmental) population is reluctant to accept someone or something with a noticeable difference from what has been socially constructed as normal. How does the apply to Joy/Hulga’s situation with having an artificial leg? How does this affect her personally?

    Whatever feelings of insufficiency Hulga had due to her artificial leg, she maintains with her dignity by her commitment to her education – she views her intellectual abilities as a form of superiority. Often, she characterizes society as inferior to her, possibly as a way to re-emphasize her astute knowledge, and when she finally establishes her true identity to the bible salesman, she gives her age since the obvious age difference was so great, and also that she “had a number of degrees” (O’Connor 402), since this was the pivotal aspect that shaped who she was. However, despite any impressive qualities that could have been concluded from the commitment to her studies, her mother still thought that she could not say “my daughter is a philosopher” and “if she could only keep herself up a little, she wouldn’t be so bad looking” (393). Hulga’s qualities, neither physical nor intellectual, were not appreciated by her mother because they were not considered to be what was acceptable in the realm of their social construction. In Passing, parallelisms in this instance can be drawn with Clare. She masked herself with a different race and was then viewed as what the social construction of her husband’s society felt was adequate. However, once he discovered her true ties, nothing she could do would pacify her husband because his disapproval was instilled in his mind.

  15. qwilson said

    In what way does Hulgas physical traits bind her? How does she use her studies to escape this oppression?

    The author spends a good deal of time in describing Hulga’s physical appearance, much more so than the other characters. She constructs Hulga to be a product of her many physical flaws. Hulgas mother describes her daughter as “bad looking” and the author states blatantly that Hulga was “a large blonde girl who had an artificial leg” (69). She has numerous health problems besides her artificial leg, including her heart condition that makes it impossible for her to leave her house to pursue her studies, and her poor eyesight. The author alludes to the fact that Hulgas physical appearance binds her social development: Hulga admits that the Bible boy was her first kiss, even though she is thirty-two. The author insists on discussing Hulgas physical shortcomings, and shows them as a complete hindrance.
    Hugla throws herself into her studies as a way to cope with her confinement. She feels she is superior in most regards due to her intelligence, and thinks she can outwit anyone. She finally lets down her guard in the last scene with the Bible boy, and is in the end outwitted. Although the author does little to describe Hulgas reaction to the last scene, it can be assumed that she reacts very poorly, and that she realizes that her disabilities will always dictate her life.

  16. shaunamarks said

    I want to go along the lines of the question; Can we apply what we learned about race to disability?
    In O’Connor’s story, “Good Country People” the disability of character, Joy “Hulga” Hopewell is crucial to understanding the basis of the story. When Hulga meets the bible salesman, and decides to go on a “pic-nic” with him, he already has his mind set on the fact that she is inferior to him in that she has a disability. She however sees herself as superior to him because of her age and education level. She even refers to him like a child, “His breath was clear and sweet like a child’s and the kisses were sticky like a child’s” (O’Connor 401).
    When you compare this difference in opinions over superiority to black representation in what we have been studying, one can easily make connections. In Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, blacks are just as misunderstood as Hulga’s character is “Good Country People.” People paint their faces black when watching the minstrel show in Bamboozled, claiming they are “niggers” when in fact, they have no clue what it is really like to be black.
    I believe that having a disability can be directly correlated to being a minority race, like black; both are highly misunderstood and taken for granted for, without others realizing that they may in fact have more to offer to the world than one thinks.

  17. christinadowling said

    In “Good Country People” observations and opinions are formed about Hulga based on her disability. The bible salesman judges her, ‘”I see you got a wooden leg, ” he said “I think you’re brave. I think you’re real sweet.” (399). It is interesting to me that this judgment of her character is preceded by the observation of her disability. The bible salesman also make assumptions regarding her abilities when they are in the barn in order to manipulate her. He baits her into doing want he wants by questioning her ability of normality, “‘It’s too bad we can’t go up there.’ ‘Why can’t we?’ she asked”(401). He manipulates her through her innate desire to be the same and not confined by her disability. Her insecurities about her disability make her vulnerable to his maliciousness. Her personality and her abilities are judged solely on her limitations, her insecurities regarding these judgments make her a target for manipulation.

  18. jeffnewton12 said

    What does Hulga/Joy’s mindset leading up to the picnic show about her intelligence and what does she learn from the actual event?

    Joy sees herself as a supreme being. She flaunts her phD in philosophy even though she has no real common sense. She constantly lives witht the mindset that she is better than everyone else, and she uses her name change to “Hulga” and her constant maliciousness toward her mother to exert a certain amount of control. Even in a time when women are not considered independent and saavy, she feels she can break away from the trend and create her own set of circumstances. Her hubris is further displayed when she makes a picnic date with the bible salesman. She is not a pleasant person, but with her academic success, she feels she can seduce the man by outwitting him. The result of the picnic, however, proves just how foolish she actually is. Instead of being forceful during the date, she becomes compliant and even vulnerable to the bible man’s requests. She decides, after being duped, that the salesman is not “good country people”. The statement shows the irony of her interaction with the salesman, she thought she could outsmart the simple country boy, but she actually played right into his devious, although intelligent plan. She may be smart on paper, but she is susceptible to even country bumpkins.

  19. jeffnewton12 said

    What does Hulga/Joy’s mindset leading up to the picnic show about her intelligence and what does she learn from the actual event?

    Joy sees herself as a supreme being. She flaunts her phD in philosophy even though she has no real common sense. She constantly lives witht the mindset that she is better than everyone else, and she uses her name change to “Hulga” and her constant maliciousness toward her mother to exert a certain amount of control. Even in a time when women are not considered independent and saavy, she feels she can break away from the trend and create her own set of circumstances. Her hubris is further displayed when she makes a picnic date with the bible salesman. She is not a pleasant person, but with her academic success, she feels she can seduce the man by outwitting him. The result of the picnic, however, proves just how foolish she actually is. Instead of being forceful during the date, she becomes compliant and even vulnerable to the bible man’s requests. She decides, after being duped, that the salesman is not “good country people”. The statement shows the irony of her interaction with the salesman, she thought she could outsmart the simple country boy, but she actually played right into his devious, although intelligent plan. She may be smart on paper, but she is susceptible to even country bumpkins.

  20. x_cabrera said

    Question: Do you believe Hulga has control over her disability or does she allow herself to fall victim to her own physical impediment.

    Answer: At times, it seems as if though Hulga has apparent control over her disability, for she purposely “stumped into the kitchen in the morning[s]” even though she “could walk without making the awful noise”(393). She exaggerated the effects of her disability to purposely bother those around her, thus showing the capacity that lied within her to manipulate her artificial leg to her favor. Similarly, she did not allow her physical disability to act as a barrier between herself and receiving a proper education, and as a child, when confronted with feelings of shame due to her artificial leg, it was this education that “removed the last traces” of her humiliation(402). Education was extremely important to Hulga, and so by taking control of her tragic situation, she managed to quench this great thirst for knowledge. Yet at the end of the story, it becomes evident that although she might at times appear to posses complete control over her disability, she cannot escape the physical impediments to which she is tied down. After having been deceived by Manley Pointer into removing her artificial leg, Hulga is left abandoned on top of a loft and can do nothing more than watch Manley and his “blue figure struggl[e] successfully over the green speckled lake” with her artificial leg tucked in between his suitcase. Hulga is left to face the harsh reality of her disability from which she can no longer escape.

  21. jackiesheely6565 said

    In this short story the character of Hulga has not only physical differences but different view on life than the other characters. Her physical difference is something that defines her as a character and is potentially responsible for her hostile and negative personality, along with the reason that she is thirty two years old and still single. “She thought of her still as a child because it tore her heart to think instead of the poor stout girl in her thirties who had never danced a step or had any normal good times” (O’Connor 392). Her leg became the excuse that made it ok for her to be so rude all the time, because people simply felt bad for her.
    I do believe that race and disability can be compared to a certain extent. To different degrees both things set you apart from other people. To a larger degree both race and disability can be seen as something that can hold you back in different situations. For Hulga she was clearly held back by the absence of her leg, and left single and unhappy until she was thirty two. She could not dance and do many things that people her age enjoyed to do. Most evident in this story she was taken advantage of by someone because she was not able to protect herself with only one leg.
    While I do think that Hulga was a victim in this story I feel as though her handicap should not be considered upon as something that is as large as racism. She was still able to perform her everyday life and while she could not do a lot of “normal” things it is not mentioned anywhere that her life was greatly affected by people discriminating against her. I feel as though from the readings we have analyzed people of color faced way more discrimination on a daily basis. So to an extent color and physical disability can be compared but in this case I feel as though they are far more difficult argue that they are of equal difficulty to the person from which they come.

  22. lauraaguirre said

    Analytical Question: Does the character of Joy/ Hulga use her disability as an excuse for strength or weakness? What does this reflect about her character?

    Answer: Throughout the story, Hulga presents her disability as a weakness in her life. She purposefully annoys others by becoming a sort of burden or problem due to her ailments. Through this weakness however, Hulga finds her own inner personal strength. In her most desperate moment of weakness (her scene with the Bible salesman at the barn) Hulga finds her only means of protection and strength through her wooden leg. “The obscenity of the suggestion was not what shocked her. As a child she had sometimes been subject to feelings of shame but education had removed the last traces of that as good as a surgeon scrapes for cancer… she was as sensitive about the artificial leg as a peacock about its tail. Noone ever touched it but her. She took care of it as someone else would his soul” (O’Connor pp. 402). In this paragraph, Hulga manages to explain her education as a mere cover for her lacking self esteem as well as show the importance of her leg towards her womanhood and overall being. Her comparison between her wooden leg and a peacock’s tail draws on the individuality and importance she felt from the leg. By stating that noone had ever touched the leg but her, Hulga presents the idea of the leg as a form of her feminity and innocence (drawing parallel between the purity of virginity and the untouched leg to her body). By stating that her treatment of the leg was similar to the way in which one would treat ‘his soul,’ Hulga points out that this leg is not just an excuse for strength or weakness, but rather a part of her persona. Therefore, this disability defines who Hulga is rather than how she defines this disability into her life.

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