E222 FLANNERY O'CONNOR QUESTIONS, CSU FULLERTON
Note: see the Journal Schedule and Instructions Page for the details on how to keep your journal.
"The Life You Save May Be Your Own" (Norton Vol. E 437-44); "Good Country People" (Vol. E 445-58).
"The Life You Save May Be Your Own" (Norton Vol. E 437-44)
1. From 437-40 of "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," which is apparently set sometime during the 1940s (depending on how old that late-20s Ford was when it stopped running), what is the basic situation on the farm of Lucynell Crater when Tom Shiftlet makes his way there? How does he present himself to the elder Lucynell and try to establish rapport with her? To what extent is his self-presentation accurate – what does it reveal and what does it hide?
2. From 440-43 of "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," what more is revealed about the elder Lucynell's motives with regard to her daughter, and what more do we learn about Tom Shiftlet's true nature and intentions? In responding to this combined question, try to draw as much as you can from the at times roundabout or indirect dialogue between the two characters.
3. From 443-44 of "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," Tom Shiftlet abandons his new bride and makes his way towards Mobile Alabama, which would seem to have been his intention from at least the moment he married her. So he has tricked the elder Lucynell on the basis of her desire for a permanent son-in-law to help her on the farm. But I no doubt mentioned in class that the Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor's stories often end with a twist, one that leaves the main character in a difficult state that nonetheless seems to open up a space for redemption. How does what happens to Tom Shiftlet from the time he picks up a young hitchhiker onwards perhaps fit this pattern? In responding, consider not only events but Tom's words and feelings.
"Good Country People" (Vol. E 445-58)
4. From 445-49 of "Good Country People," the text's focus is mainly on the divorced farm-owner Mrs. Hopewell. What seem to be Mrs. Hopewell's main qualities? What is her relationship with her tenant Mrs. Freeman and with her own daughter Joy? Why, for example, is Mrs. Freeman supposedly "good country people" (also explain what that term appears to mean at this point), and what accounts for the tense, frustration-laced relationship between mother and daughter Hopewell?
5. From 445-49 of "Good Country People," how does the text weave in Joy's own outlook and personality – for example, when and why did she change her name from Joy to Hulga, and what does she seem to think of her mother and the "good country people" Mrs. Hopewell is always praising?
6. From 449-54 of "Good Country People," the visit of Manley Pointer the bible salesman is recounted, along with the visit's aftermath. How does this young man become an object of contention between the elder Mrs. Hopewell and her daughter Joy/Hulga? During and after this first encounter, what desires and intentions regarding the young man does Joy/Hulga reveal.
7. From 454-57 top of "Good Country People," characterize the progress of Joy/Hulga's arranged meeting with Manley Pointer. How does she imagine this meeting unfolding in advance? Then, during the actual meeting and conversation, what happens? What does she try to convince him of, and by what means? What is Manley himself interested in? Why does this interest of his both disturb and excite her?
8. From 457-58 of "Good Country People," Joy/Hulga's apparent seductive triumph turns to unpleasant shock and dismay when Manley Pointer takes away her artificial limb and refuses to give it back. He also mocks her atheist rhetoric on top of that strange accomplishment. I mentioned in class that the Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor's stories often end with a twist, one that leaves the main character in a difficult state that nonetheless seems to open up the possibility of deep insight and redemption. How does what happens to Joy/Hulga at the hands of the devious, cynical bible salesman Manley Pointer correspond to this pattern? In responding, consider what Joy/Hulga's wooden leg has meant to her, and what the taking away of it might mean. Consider, too, the connection between this artificial limb and the strong intellect in which she has prided herself as a mark of distinction amongst the country-dwellers she apparently despises.