Living with a disability, disfigurement or impairment can cause a person to experience an incredibly trying life. This is not only about the physical issues the person has endured but also the psychological harm the trauma has caused the person. In Flannery OConnors short story Good Country People the main character Joy, also known as Hulga, suffered a traumatic loss of limb during her childhood. The traumatic event would continue to effect Joy-Hulga throughout her life leading to mental and emotional challenges.
Though her given name is Joy, after leaving her childhood home for college Joy changed her name to Hulga. By examining the two different names, Joy and Hulga, it gives the reader an insight as to how the daughter of the story views herself both internally and externally.
OConnor uses the two different names to show the effects of the traumatic events in Joy-Hulgas life and how those injuries can affect a young person in more than just a physical way.
By using a name that is happy and peaceful such as Joy allows a large contrast with Hulga. Hulga being a harsh and ugly name allows the reader to better understand the conflict that is happening on the daily within Joy-Hulga herself. By naming herself Hulga, Joy feels that the name Hulga better expresses her continuous emotional state. The name Joy is a representation of the person that Joy-Hulga was prior to the traumatic event, this includes the relationships she had prior to her accident.
Mrs. Hopewell, Joy-Hulgas mother still refers to Joy-Hulga as Joy. The name Joy is used by her mother because that is the person that Mrs. Hopewell sees, though Joy-Hulga has grown and changed both physically and emotionally. Mrs. Hopewell still views Joy-Hulga as a daughter that desperately needs the caring of her mother. By using the two names the readers can determine how the character looks at herself and how her mother views the character.
Joy-Hulga viewed her changed name as an escape from her mother and a token of her short-lived independent days spent at college. Mrs. Hopewell and Joy-Hulga have an incredibly complicated and difficult relationship. Mrs. Hopewell is not only Joy-Hulgas mother, but she is also the primary caregiver of her daughter. Though both characters are completely aware that Joy-Hulga is capable of caring for herself and striking out on her own it seems to be ignored. The scholarly article by Margaret Bauer suggests that largest issue within the mother-daughter relationship, is the way Mrs. Hopewell views her own daughter and Mrs. Hopewells inability to realize the worth of her own daughter and the relationship that they share together (Bauer, para. 3) . OConnor presents the characters in the story in a manner that requires them to be very reliant upon one another. Neither of the characters have intimate, personal relationships with people outside of their home and do not go to social gatherings or attempt to be social with other local towns people. Due to their inability to be socially active both characters, mother and daughter, are presented as being na?ve in social situations.
OConnors depiction of the relationship between mother and daughter relates to the reader as a power struggle between to two incredibly strong willed and demanding women. Joy-Hulga views her mother as a negative factor in her life that she feels is holding her back. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hopewell views her daughter as an incapable, depressed individual whom has been spoiled throughout her life time. Both women in are in a desperate search for control in their lives. To the reader the frustration is expressed in the moments the characters are bickering and yelling at one another or other exterior characters within the story, as well as the constant noises and annoyed actions the two character carry out (OConnor, 4).
Mrs. Hopewell has a view on the world that stems from her religious beliefs while Joy-Hulga has no belief in religion at all which puts a large obstacle in their relationship. Mrs. Hopewell is a devoted Christian that is fully engulfed in her faith. Because of her faith Mrs. Hopewell has great trust in the people whom surround her, trusting them without any doubt. The trust Mrs. Hopewell has in people is represented in the story by the bible salesman Manley Pointer. Mrs. Hopewell opens her home to Pointer with no reservations. According to an article by Kate Oliver , Manley Pointer is in the story to represent the life lessons that Joy-Hulga and Mrs. Hopewell have yet to learn (Oliver, 238). Joy-Hulga relies on no type of religion within her life. Joy-Hulga believes only facts and science is her source of knowledge and belief. Science is easier to relate to for Joy-Hulga as it is already been proven and has no room for deception or miss leading. The reader sees a great example of this in the story by the books that Joy-Hulga persistently reads throughout the story (OConnor, 4). Joy-Hulga relies on her Science books to help her have peace and happiness. Without the books she would have no pleasure in life, as it is her escape, she sees her life as a prison with no physical escape. Joy-Hulga is defiant of the values that her mother taught her as a child (Pietka, para.4). The differences in belief and religion is an ongoing cause of strain in the relationship between Mrs. Hopewell and Joy-Hulga.
Joy-Hulgas life became extremely challenging in many ways when she experienced an accident very early in her life at the young age of ten (OConnor, 6). As Joy-Hulga grew older her ability to have successful relationships with those around her and potential suitors became incredibly difficult. Her emotional and mental challenges within herself are consistently over powering challenges within her life, making it impossible for her to strike out on her own. The life lessons that Pointer gives to Joy- Hulga are invaluable and will impact her life in the future. It is up to Joy-Hulga to determine if those effects are positive or negative.