Joy/Hulga: A Poster Child for Abuse Emotional abuse can be the most difficult to identify because there are usually no outward signs of the abuse. Emotional abuse happens when yelling and anger go too far or when parents constantly criticize, threaten, or dismiss kids or teens until their selfesteem and feelings of selfworth are damaged.
Emotional abuse can hurt and cause damage just as physical abuse does. In the short story, Good
Country People by Flannery O’Connor, Joy is depicted as an amputee who lives on a farm with her mother, Mrs. Hopewell and hired help. She gets lured away from her comfort zone by a young bible salesman named Manly Pointer, who then takes advantage of her disability to get what he wants from her. Joy is a victim of emotional negligence which makes her angry, causes her to withdraw from social normalities and in turn she lacks experience with healthy interactions that causes her to be vulnerable to
Manly Pointer’s attack. Joys anger derives from her mother’s perception of her and her constant need to change Joy into someone more pleasant. Mrs. Hopewell views her daughter as ‘a child though she was thirtytwo and highly educated’ (O’connor, 100). Mrs. Hopewell pities her daughter because of her prosthetic leg and also believes that she was robbed of any ‘normal good times’ because of her disability (O’connor,
102). She brags about the other girls Joy lives with, Glynese and Carramae, and considers them ‘...the finest girls she knows...,’ even though one is a pregnant teen and there is evidence that suggests the
other is a gold digger (O’connor, 108). Joy is being subjected to unrealistic expectations and because her mother reinforces this practice, her anger intensifies. Joy lashes out, reacting to the emotional abuse with her foolishness by dressing like a child and changing her name to Hulga which she deems as an ultimate trump to her mother's efforts to fix her (O’Connor,102). Joy, also known as Hulga, opts for isolation instead of overcoming obstacles as an easy way out, and in this case, an easy way to be closed in. She isolates herself to her mother's farm and as a direct result, limits her interactions to the very people that disgust her. She states, ‘...that if it had not been for her condition, she would be far away from these red hills and good country people (O’connor, 103).
She calls Glynese and Carramae out of their names in the second paragraph of the story reflecting her opinion of them, and she yells at her mother out of frustration because she believes that her mother’s thought process is delusional and out of touch (O’connor, 103, 104). Hulga despises the fact that her mother thinks of the help as “good country people”. Hulga commits herself to her scholarly knowledge as does her mother to her belief that all country people are good and simple showing that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Hulga shows her irritation by saying, ‘Get rid of the salt of the earth, and let’s eat’, a phrase her mother uses to describe how she sees country people (O’Connor, 105). Mrs.
Hopewell, excuses Hulga’s bad manners and rudeness because of her disability. Her mother minimizes
Hulga’s own aggressive behavior. Hulga justifies her mothers gestures as validation for her false judgements of others (Stevenson, Stosney Anger in the Age of Enlightenment: Cleaning Up Emotional
Pollution). Overexposure to the same environment and the same mentalities of her company molds
Hulga to be vulnerable to the realities of potentially dangerous situations and people like her next abuser,
Manly Pointer (National Trainer on Domestic and Sexual Violence).
Hulga’s inexperience with relationships allows Manly Pointer to take advantage of her nativity. Her scholarly superiority proves to be of no match to Mr. Pointers seductive powers of…