Both Mrs. Hopewell and her daughter Hulga are judgmental, but for different reasons. Mrs. Hopewell is middle class and has tenants on her farmland. She only wants “good country people” as tenants. In her estimation, “good country people” are stereotypically poor, “salt of the earth” types with no pretensions about them. They are not educated, but they do not behave in ways Mrs. Hopewell would find embarrassing. For this reason, she is happy with her current tenants: “Mrs. Hopewell liked to tell people that Glynese and Carramae were two of the finest girls she knew and that Mrs. Freeman was a lady that she was never ashamed to take her anywhere or introduce her to anybody” (p. 1991). Mrs. Freeman is acceptable company because she is someone who readily agrees with Mrs. Hopewell while entertaining her, and Mrs. Hopewell can feel superior to her, which OConnor exposes in a bit of dialogue. Mrs. Hopewell flatters Mrs. Freeman by telling her she is the smart one in the marriage. Mrs. Freeman agrees, saying shes always been quick. Mrs. Hopewell responds with, “Everybody is different,” and Mrs. Freeman answers, “Yes, most people is” (p. 1992).
Hulga and her mother are at odds for more than one reason. Hulga has a doctorate in philosophy, while Mrs. Hopewell sees girls going to school to “have a good time” (p 1994), not to necessarily get a degree. In the mid-1950s, it is still unconventional for women to have careers or seek advanced degrees. Hulga would like to be a professor if not for her poor physical condition. While Mrs. Hopewell sees herself as enlightened in her attitude towards the poor “good country people,” Hulga sees her mother as vapid: “Woman! do you ever look inside? Do you ever look inside and see what you are not?” Hulga, in her own mind, is the only intelligent one. She is highly educated, and she is enlightened enough to be an atheist.
OConnor heavily criticizes these judgmental attitudes regarding intellectualism and class through the character of Manley Pointer, who fools both Mrs. Hopewell and Hulga. Pretending to be a Bible salesman, he seems to typify every quality Mrs. Hopewell finds endearing in “good country people”: “I know Im real simple. I dont know how to say a thing but to say it. Im just a country boy.People like you dont like to fool with country people like me!” (p 1995). He portrays himself as uneducated, extremely poor, and unpretentious, and his lack of education is further characterized through his pronunciation of words like “intraduce” (p. 1995) and “dontcher” (p. 2001). When Manley treats Hulga as if she is desirable — something no man has expressed towards her before — Hulga finds his “simpleness” intriguing and fantasizes about enlightening him: “she very easily seduced him andhad to reckon with his remorse. True genius can get an idea across even to an inferior mind” (p. 1998). She wants to overpower him both physically and intellectually. But Pointer gets the last laugh.
It is Pointer who seduces Hulga. After he tricks her into taking off her leg and steals it, he lets her know that he, too, is an atheist: “you aint so smart. I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!” (p. 2003). Hulga has perceived him as being a simple, uneducated young man, but he outsmarts her and.