Flannery O'Connor's Stories

Perilous Intelligence: The Dangers of Being Over-Intellectual in "Good Country People" 11th Grade

Is being an intellectual dangerous? If having more knowledge than another person can cause trouble in 2014, then exceptional intelligence certainly brought even more risks to its bearer in Flannery O’Connor’s society. O’Connor, one of the most well-known Southern Gothic authors, often wrote about the peril of intellectuals in her day. With one of the strangest endings, the short story “Good Country People,” fitting well with O’Connor’s common theme, tells the tale of the grumbling atheist Joy Hopewell and the traveling Bible salesman Manley Pointer. After beginning with a primary focus on the interaction between Joy’s mother and the young man, the story shifts to detail Joy and Manley’s ill-fated romp in the barn where his true colors are revealed and Joy’s wooden leg is stolen. Joy Hopewell’s professed “kind of salvation… [in realizing] that there’s nothing to see” prevents her from looking past the spiritually intellectual façade of Manley Pointer (13), recognizing his true belief that “good country people” do not get far in life (15), and understanding that the two actually hold very similar beliefs.

Although Joy views herself as enlightened, her scholarly belief that human existence holds no deeper meanings blinds her to...

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