Good Country People as an Example of a Southern Gothic Literature

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"Good Country People" written by Mary Flannery O'Connor first appeared in 1955 in a story collection A Good Man is Hard to Find.

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A short story Good Country People is an example of Southern Gothic fiction. The scene in this story is laid in the American countryside. The characters are overwhelmed by the idea of a good country people. People who arent simple, lighthearted and a little silly seem them strange. These people make an atmosphere of dull life in the countryside.

Everything in this story is described like dark or gray. A lot of objects are dusty. Even the lake near the village is green, dark and dirty. One can find a bright example, in a description of a house where the main characters live: letting her gaze range over the top kitchen shelf where there was an assortment of dusty bottles (O'Connor, F. 1977).

An atmosphere of hopelessness in this story is created also by the descriptions of the main characters. For example, the main character, a young woman called Joy with icy blue eyes is described like a bloated, rude, and squint-eyed. And she said such strange things! (O'Connor, F. 1977)

The plot centers on a young woman, who is very clever and educated. She seems strange to the country people because of her education of the philosopher and her behavior. The girl had taken the Ph.D. in philosophy and this left Mrs. Hopewell at a complete loss (O'Connor, F. 1977) She cant smile a lot and be lighthearted and friendly to people around her because of her trauma. She has lost her leg in an accident when she was a little girl. Sometimes she went for walks but she didnt like dogs or cats or birds or flowers or nature or nice young men. She looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity (O'Connor, F. 1977) Nothing makes her feel better. Now, she hates herself and even changed her name. She saw it as the name of highest creative act (O'Connor, F. 1977)

The main gothic element of this story is another character. A young Bible salesman, from his appearance in the story seems eccentric. he had on a bright blue suit and yellow socks that were not pulled up far enough. He had prominent face bones and streak of sticky-looking brown hair falling across his forehead (O'Connor, F. 1977). The women were charmed by him, but the mystery falls in an episode when Joy has a date with him. He shows her his real face at the end of the story and the reader understands that he isnt a supernatural hero. He made a trick with a woman by stealing her prosthetic leg and glasses. The irony is that he is a strange young man with some mental problems (he likes to take thinks of disabled women). This little madness and a dark humor of the story make it a gothic fiction.

One can also find other elements of the gothic literature in this story. The life stories of the two main characters create an atmosphere of hopelessness and darkness. They both are strange and have some mental problems. And the last example is when Mrs. Hopewell reads a book leaved by her daughter. This book is a philosophical treatise, but the woman understands nothing. And calls it some evil incantation in gibberish (O'Connor, F. 1977). But that isnt the main object which replaces the element of magic, usual for gothic stories. The darkest element which replaced magic is a figure of a young Bible salesman with his mystery, strangeness and obsession in prostheses of disabled people. His behavior and atheism show him like and evil in this story.

A short story Good Country People is a striking example of a Southern Gothic literature. It is full of elements typical for classical gothic novels (everything is dark, dusty, a mad man like a central figure) and a lot of elements of American gothic stories (American countryside, dark humor and irony.). All these elements make the story complete and the dark humor, smooth over the impression of hopelessness.

Works Cited

O'Connor, Flannery. "Good Country People." A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977. 177-206. Print.

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