The Southern setting of the short story “Good Country People” affects characters’ way of identifying themselves and others. Hulga’s mother, Mrs. Hopewell, judges people by their perceived characteristics and shows a tendency to divide people into familiar and foreign types, treating both differently. Her use of the phrase “good country people” shows that her friendliness with a person is connected to her occupation and place of living. Thus, this rural environment becomes a basis for Mrs. Hopewell to judge people.
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Hulga’s weak heart may symbolize her lack of a clear self-identity and confidence in knowing her own personality. Hulga’s naïve behavior at the end of the story shows that her academic education did not help her to obtain analytic skills necessary to judge people, as she is unable to see Manley’s true intentions even after he reveals his real character.
Hulda’s glasses represent her ability to perceive the world clearly. By taking off Hulga’s glasses, Manley leaves her blind to the truth about his identity and makes her vulnerable to the world. Moreover, his ability to take off her glasses shows that he has taken control of her and she cannot make her own decisions. Manley’s actions make him a dominant force to which Hulga submits without realizing. Therefore, Hulga’s initial belief in rationality and freedom of choice is taken away from her.
Hulga’s leg can symbolize her doubtful soul, which she refuses to show to anyone by hiding the seam between her body and the prosthetic. Moreover, her mother believes that the loss of the leg cost Hulga an ability to enjoy life. Thus, the artificial leg also means that Hulga is missing joy. Hulga’s false leg exposed to Manley implies that she entrusts her soul to him and reveals her insecurities and weaknesses hidden from the world.