Good Country People

The Artificial Leg Symbol Icon

Hulga treats her artificial leg “as someone else would his soul, in private and with her eyes turned away.” She spends her life hiding it, and when the Bible Salesman wants to see it she at first refuses. When she does let him take it off, she is at her most vulnerable. It is no coincidence that at that same moment she experiences a fleeting spiritual awakening. The leg has come to represent her soul: it is what makes her unique, and it is what makes her vulnerable. Flannery O’Connor always wrote with an interest in the soul; regarding the leg, she said, “We’re presented with the fact that the Ph.D. is spiritually as well as physically crippled . . . and we perceive that there is a wooden part of her soul that corresponds to her wooden leg.” Just as Hulga’s vulnerability because of her missing leg caused her to get an artificial one, the lack of faith in her life caused her to fortify herself with philosophy. But Flannery O’Connor, a devout Christian, presents this as a tragic state of affairs: just as the Bible Salesman proves that Hulga is still physically vulnerable even with her artificial leg, O’Connor shows that Hulga’s spiritual state is still vulnerable despite her deep knowledge of philosophy and her cynical outlook. We can regard this “wooden part of her soul” as the part of Hulga that depends on philosophy and cynicism.

The Artificial Leg Quotes in Good Country People

The Good Country People quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Artificial Leg. 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

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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She had a vision of the name working like the ugly sweating Vulcan who stayed in the furnace and to whom, presumably, the goddess had to come when called…

Related Characters: Hulga Hopewell (Joy)
Related Symbols: The Artificial Leg
Page Number: 275
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit ess

But she was as sensitive about the artificial leg as a peacock about his tail. No one ever touched it but her. She took care of it as someone else would his soul, in private and almost with her own eyes away.

Related Characters: Hulga Hopewell (Joy), The Bible Salesman
Related Symbols: The Artificial Leg
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

She decided that for the first time in her life she was face to face with real innocence. This boy, with an instinct that came from beyond wisdom, had touched the truth about her. When after a minute, she said in a hoarse high voice, “All right,” it was like surrendering to him completely. It was like losing her own life and finding it again, miraculously, in his.

Related Characters: Hulga Hopewell (Joy), The Bible Salesman
Related Symbols: The Artificial Leg
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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The Artificial Leg Symbol Timeline in Good Country People

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Artificial Leg 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
...narrator describes her as blonde, highly educated, and thirty-two years old. She also has an artificial leg . (full context)
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
Authentic Faith and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Disease and Disability Theme Icon
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...her leg when she was ten years old in a hunting accident. Because of Hulga’s artificial leg , Mrs. Hopewell notes that she has never “never danced a step or had any... (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
...their talk by the fence, when he had made a joke and commented on her artificial leg , saying that she seemed “real brave” and “real sweet.” On the way to the... (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
As the two walk, the Bible Salesman asks Hulga where her artificial leg joins to her body, and Hulga is offended. The Bible Salesman says that he meant... (full context)
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
Authentic Faith and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Disease and Disability Theme Icon
...Hulga to prove that she loves him. He asks her to show him where her artificial leg connects to her body. She refuses. The Bible Salesman acts insulted, and says that Hulga... (full context)
Appearances and Realities Theme Icon
Authentic Faith and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Disease and Disability Theme Icon
The Bible Salesman asks Hulga to show him how to take the artificial leg off and then put it back on again, and she does. The Bible Salesman then... (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
...she thought he was “just good country people.” She repeatedly demands to be given her artificial leg back. The Bible Salesman comments that he’s surprised that an atheist is so perturbed at... (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 then grabs the artificial leg and places it, along with the rest of his things, into his valise . As... (full context)