Good Country People

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Hulga’s mother, Mrs. Hopewell’s name is a pun on the breezy outlook she has of the world. Her conventional worldview is based on a simplistic assessment of herself at the top and the classes “beneath” her as either made up of “good country people,” meaning rural people who work hard and are honest, and “trash,” dishonest people who, Mrs. Hopewell believes, are strictly untrustworthy and live in filth. She believes herself to be able to easily distinguish between these classes, a sense that of course reaffirms her own belief in her superiority. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hopewell gossips regularly with her employee and tenant, Mrs. Freeman. Mrs. Hopewell recognizes that Mrs. Freeman is nosy, but prides herself on putting that to good use: if Mrs. Freeman wants to be in charge everything, Mrs. Hopewell believes, then let her. It is clear, though, that Mrs. Freeman’s habit of telling Mrs. Hopewell whatever she wants to hear gives Mrs. Hopewell a false sense of her own good judgment. Though skeptical of Hulga’s philosophical tendencies, Mrs. Hopewell is at times sympathetic toward her daughter and has allowed her a relaxed and intellectual life. Ultimately, Mrs. Hopewell is not a bad person, but her easy sense of superiority and conventional morality makes her hypocritical (as Hulga sees her) and easily manipulated by the Bible Salesman, who Mrs. Hopewell sees as being one of the “good country people.”

Mrs. Hopewell Quotes in Good Country People

The Good Country People quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Hopewell or refer to Mrs. Hopewell. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Class, Identity, and Superiority Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of Good Country People published in 1971.
Good Country People Quotes

By the time Joy came in, they had usually finished the weather report and were on one or the other of Mrs. Freeman’s daughters, Glynese or Carramae, Joy called them Glycerin and Caramel.

Related Characters: Hulga Hopewell (Joy), Mrs. Hopewell, Mrs. Freeman, Carramae and Glynese Freeman –
Page Number: 272
Explanation and Analysis:

These women believe themselves to be good, moral people who are better than everyone else. However, Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman are constantly gossiping about others, which is not a pastime considered virtuous or industrious. Mrs. Hopewell, who has the greater social status, further believes herself to be kind and discerning because of her treatment of Mrs. Freeman. Her willingness to spend time with someone lower class, her identification of Mrs. Freeman as "good country people" rather than "trash," and her ability to make good use of Mrs. Freeman's nosiness all inflate Mrs. Hopewell's already large ego. However, when we see the two women together it is clear that they have similar interests and personalities, and neither one of them is better or smarter than the other. This passage is also an indication of Joy (Hulga)'s bitterness and cynicism. Joy mocks the names of Mrs. Freeman's daughters, who are pretty and successful in love, for seemingly no reason. This hints at Joy's own vulnerability and the pain of her loneliness. While she believes that she is being honest and intelligent by seeing through the hypocrisy and artifice of others, she actually cuts others down partly out of insecurity.

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Nothing is perfect. This was one of Mrs. Hopewell’s favorite sayings. Another was: that is life! And still another, the most important, was: well, other people have their opinions too.

Related Characters: Mrs. Hopewell
Page Number: 272-273
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Hopewell believes that she is at the top of a social hierarchy, and unconsciously feels that she is the cleverest and most moral person in her life. However, her analysis of the world around her rests almost entirely on nearly meaningless platitudes like these. She does not seem capable of seeing the world as it is, since she merely applies a cliche that seems appropriate for every situation and then moves on. This is not intelligent behavior, or particularly moral behavior. For instance, her beloved saying that "other people have their opinions too" makes her seem openminded and nonjudgmental, but her insistence on differentiating between "trash" and "good country people" shows how ingrained judgment is in her personality. The narrator states that Mrs. Hopewell says these platitudes in a tone that suggests that "no one held [these opinions] but her," which shows, too, her lack of self awareness. She believes herself to be exceptional, but Mrs. Hopewell is shallow and petty and uninspired like most other people in her life.

The reason for her keeping them so long was that they were not trash. They were good country people.

Related Characters: Mrs. Hopewell, Mrs. Freeman
Page Number: 272
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Hopewell is constantly patting herself on the back for her kindness in employing Mrs. Freeman. She believes that this reflects well on her since she, as a wise person of high status, has had the kindness and good sense to hire someone who is what she believes to be the good kind of poor ("good country people") rather than the bad kind ("trash"). This shows just how central social class is to Mrs. Hopewell's worldview. Instead of seeing Mrs. Freeman as simply a good or bad person, she sees her as a poor person first and approves of her in a condescending way that implies that she is respectable and simple rather than just good. This is also ironic, since Mrs. Freeman is not a particularly good person, and she is no more "simple" than Mrs. Hopewell herself. Mrs. Hopewell's obsession with social class, then, has blinded her to the realities of the world around her that should have been obvious.

“Her remarks were usually so ugly and her face so glum that Mrs. Hopewell would say, ‘If you can’t come pleasantly, I don’t want you at all,” to which the girl, standing square and rigid-shouldered with her neck thrust forward, would reply, ‘If you want me, here I am—LIKE I AM.”

Related Characters: Hulga Hopewell (Joy) (speaker), Mrs. Hopewell (speaker)
Page Number: 274
Explanation and Analysis:

This comment comes in the context of the narrator explaining why Mrs. Hopewell hired Mrs. Freeman, commenting that the "trash" families she had hired before her were not the kind of people she wanted to be around. It is ironic, then, that Mrs. Hopewell's own daughter--someone of high social class and much education--is someone who, like the "trash," Mrs. Hopewell does not want to be around. Mrs. Hopewell is so consumed by her preoccupation with social class, though, that she cannot recognize this parallel. Mrs. Hopewell is unable to acknowledge the reality of even her own daughter's character, preferring to pretend that Hulga could be more pleasant if she tried, and refusing to grapple with the pain and suffering that has made her this way. For her part, this is another example of Hulga responding to the pain and loneliness of her life by purposefully acting "ugly" just to spite her mother.

She thought of her still as a child because it tore her heart to think instead of the poor stout girl in her thirties who had never danced a step or had any normal good times.

Related Characters: Mrs. Hopewell
Page Number: 274
Explanation and Analysis:

This is a blatant example of Mrs. Hopewell's preference for her petty illusions over looking reality in the face. Hulga's reality does not fit in with Mrs. Hopewell's narrative of her own life, a life that she believes should be good and pleasant and successful because of her class. As such, she cannot acknowledge that her disabled daughter is unhappy and living a life unlike the one Mrs. Hopewell imagined for her. That Mrs. Hopewell prefers to think of Hulga as a child rather than acknowledging that she is an adult further shows her condescension and delusion. Hulga is a full-grown, well-educated woman whose peculiar attitudes and beliefs come from a complex life of suffering and studying, but rather than engaging with this Mrs. Hopewell instead takes the condescending and disrespectful approach of thinking of Hulga as a child who doesn't know who she truly is and might someday grow into someone "normal." This also shows the infuriating reality that Hulga lives with in which very few people are willing to deal with her frankly and honestly, something she craves. 

Mrs. Hopewell was certain that she had thought and thought and thought until she had hit upon the ugliest name in any language. Then she had gone and had the beautiful name, Joy, changed without telling her mother until after she had done it. Her legal name was Hulga.

Related Characters: Hulga Hopewell (Joy), Mrs. Hopewell
Related Symbols: The Artificial Leg
Page Number: 274
Explanation and Analysis:

This is a complicated passage that is revealing of both Mrs. Hopewell and Hulga. For Mrs. Hopewell, this shows her cynicism and lack of compassion. She seems to believe that in changing her name from Joy to Hulga, her daughter has done something perverse to personally spite her. She never steps back and tries to understand why Hulga might have wanted to change her name, and she never considers reasons for her having chosen it other than simple perversity. Hulga, though, feels that the name gives her power over other people because it is shocking. For Hulga, the name is an affront to others in the way that her appearance, attitude, and artificial leg are. Hulga feels empowered by embracing what she sees to be the reality of her condition, rather than living with a name like Joy that feels false. However, Hulga likes her name best when only she is willing to use it; she is uncomfortable when Mrs. Freeman uses the name and feels that her privacy has been invaded. This is a key to Hulga's vulnerability; her insecurities about her leg and appearance mean that she embraces ugliness only when she herself is wielding it. When it fails to make others uncomfortable, Hulga's name turns on her and makes her feel vulnerable.

Mrs. Hopewell could not say, “My daughter is an atheist and won’t let me keep the Bible in the parlor.” She said, stiffening slightly, “I keep my bible by my bedside.” This was not the truth. It was in the attic somewhere.

Related Characters: Mrs. Hopewell (speaker), Hulga Hopewell (Joy), The Bible Salesman
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:

This is another example of Mrs. Hopewell's lack of self-awareness. She is quite concerned with appearing to be a good Christian (her embarrassment at not having a Bible in the parlor shows this), but the fact that her Bible is somewhere in the attic reveals that she is probably not a devout Christian, as she does not know exactly where to find it and she clearly does not look at it much. Furthermore, her willingness to casually lie about her Bible casts doubt on her claims to being a good Christian.

During this interaction Mrs. Hopewell never doubts herself or her intentions, instead casting the blame on her atheist daughter who apparently will not allow a Bible to be kept in the parlor. This is deep hypocrisy; Mrs. Hopewell is clearly the one to blame for having stashed her Bible in the attic, but she feels no shame or hint of awareness about this, preferring to see her daughter as the one who has failed. As long as Mrs. Hopewell appears to be a good Christian in the eyes of others she is satisfied; this interaction shows that her own private behavior doesn't seem to trouble her. 

“Well lady, I’ll tell you the truth—not many people want to buy one nowadays and besides, I know I’m real simple. I don’t know how to say a thing but to say it. I’m just a country boy.” He glanced up to her unfriendly face. “People like you don’t like to fool with country people like me!”

Related Characters: The Bible Salesman (speaker), Mrs. Hopewell
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator later gives hints that the Bible salesman is not who he claims to be, but Mrs. Hopewell take this statement at face value when he makes it. In fact, he is manipulating Mrs. Hopewell into inviting him to stay by playing to her blindnesses and prejudices. What he says seems to be just what Mrs. Hopewell would expect to hear from a young man like him--he admits to being simple, and flatters Mrs. Hopewell by acknowledging that people of her status are above people like him. He also, by saying that people like her don't fool with people like him, creates an opening for her to display her goodness and charity by inviting him to stay. The Bible salesman, then, is taking advantage of Mrs. Hopewell's classism and need to show that she is moral and respectable. In reality, though, the Bible salesman is revealing Mrs. Hopewell's self-absorption and naïveté. Since he is playing up the stereotype she expects to find, she remains blind to his actual motives and character as an individual person.

“Lord,” she said, “he bored me to death but he was so sincere and genuine I couldn’t be rude to him. He was just good country people, you know,” she said, “—just the salt of the earth.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Hopewell (speaker), Mrs. Freeman, The Bible Salesman
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Mrs. Hopewell is condescending and hypocritical. While she admits that she found the Bible salesman boring, she could not be rude to him to his face, though she is perfectly willing to insult him behind his back. This shows that her dinner invitation to him was not real kindness, but rather hewing to the social expectations for what a "good" person looks like. She is also, once again, making the condescending distinction between "good country people" and "trash." Because the boy seemed polite and Christian, Mrs. Hopewell assumes that he is a simple and good person, albeit one who is below her. In fact, the boy is manipulating her for his own perverse intentions, but she is so beholden to her own stereotypes and so enamored with her own wisdom and judgment that she remains blind to the reality of the situation. 

“Why, that looks like that nice dull young man that tried to sell me a Bible yesterday,” Mrs. Hopewell said, squinting. “He must have been selling them to the Negroes back there. He was so simple,” she said, “but I guess the world would be better off if we were all that simple.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Hopewell (speaker), Mrs. Freeman, The Bible Salesman
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

O'Connor ends the story with a crushing display of condescension and irony from Hulga's mother. After she sees the Bible salesman walking through the field with his valise (which, unbeknownst to her, contains her daughter's artificial leg), she belittles the man's intelligence while appearing to make a kind and wise statement about the goodness of simple poor people. Her vague and sentimental statement that "I guess the world would be better off if we were all that simple" provides a deep irony; in this scenario, Mrs. Hopewell, who has never once suspected that the salesman is not who he appears to be, is actually the simple one, and the world is certainly not better off for her blindness.

This closing scene of self-congratulatory and deluded superiority by Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman moves the reader from one dark scenario to another. Hulga has been deeply betrayed, but her betrayal came only after her experience of grace and connection. O'Connor forces the reader to consider that perhaps Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman are not any better off than Hulga, though, as they have experienced neither open betrayal nor transformative grace, and, as such, they are left sitting on the porch still engaging in petty conversations about the people around them.

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Mrs. Hopewell Character Timeline in Good Country People

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Hopewell appears in Good Country People. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Good Country People
Disease and Disability Theme Icon
The story’s action begins at breakfast. Mrs. Hopewell , who owns the farm and employs Mrs. Freeman, begins the morning routine: she lights... (full context)
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Hulga stays in the bathroom until Mrs. Freeman has arrived, and her small talk with Mrs. Hopewell is almost done. Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman talk about Mrs. Freeman’s daughters, Glynese and... (full context)
Class, Identity, and Superiority Theme Icon
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Mrs. Hopewell is proud to introduce Mrs. Freeman, Carramae, and Glynese around town. When she had been... (full context)
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Mrs. Hopewell comments on how helpful Mrs. Freeman has been, and Mrs. Freeman agrees. No matter what... (full context)
Class, Identity, and Superiority Theme Icon
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
Disease and Disability Theme Icon
Before the Freemans moved in, Mrs. Hopewell had a new family living on her property each year. Now the Freemans have been... (full context)
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
Authentic Faith and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Disease and Disability Theme Icon
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Mrs. Hopewell accepts her daughter’s negative attitude because Hulga lost her leg when she was ten years... (full context)
Authentic Faith and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Disease and Disability Theme Icon
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Hulga resents that Mrs. Hopewell would often criticize her facial expression, saying that “people who looked on the bright side... (full context)
Class, Identity, and Superiority Theme Icon
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
Authentic Faith and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Disease and Disability Theme Icon
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Mrs. Hopewell regrets allowing Hulga to return to school to get a PhD. Hulga is thirty-two years... (full context)
Class, Identity, and Superiority Theme Icon
...that her fifteen-year-old daughter, Carramae, who is married and pregnant, has been vomiting. Watching Hulga, Mrs. Hopewell wonders what her own daughter said to the Bible Salesman who had shown up the... (full context)
Class, Identity, and Superiority Theme Icon
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
Authentic Faith and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...the Hopewell home, seeming earnest and well mannered, and carrying a valise full of Bibles. Mrs. Hopewell invites him inside, and he explains that he’s there to sell Bibles. He flatters Mrs.... (full context)
Class, Identity, and Superiority Theme Icon
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
Authentic Faith and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Disease and Disability Theme Icon
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
The Bible Salesman responds that he’s “just a country boy” and that “People like [ Mrs. Hopewell ] don’t like to fool with country people like me.” He adds that he is... (full context)
Class, Identity, and Superiority Theme Icon
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
Disease and Disability Theme Icon
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...old, and to have grown up going to Sunday school. Hulga leaves the table, and Mrs. Hopewell spends two hours listening to the Bible Salesman talk about his life before telling him... (full context)
Class, Identity, and Superiority Theme Icon
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
...Freeman there as long as possible in order to evade any questions from her mother. Mrs. Hopewell comments on how dull she found her conversation with the Bible Salesman, yet how kind... (full context)
Class, Identity, and Superiority Theme Icon
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman, busy working, watch the Bible Salesman walk from the woods toward the... (full context)