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
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.
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…
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.
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.