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James N. Coppock

ENGL 8800 – Rational Analysis

Dr. John J. McKenna

Feb. 15, 2008


Keirseyian Analysis of Hulga (Joy) in Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People”


“ . . . indeed these Rationals, concerned as they are with logical

investigation, seem detached and distant from others, who conclude

that this type has no interest in social reality.” (Keirsey 163).


The Rational temperament type can be challenging to ascertain when evaluating characters in any given literary text.  Utilitarian in their tool usage, much like Artisans, Rationals “see pleasing others and obeying rules as secondary considerations” to “achieving their ends” (Keirsey 168).  And, much like Idealists in their abstract thoughts, Rationals speak mostly of “conceptual things rather than perceptual things” (Keirsey 165).  Yet if we observe a character’s words and behaviors through a close reading of the text, it is possible to deduce the Rational temperament type early in a story, for above all else, Rationals value efficiency.  In fact, the character of Hulga in Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” is an excellent example of the Rational temperament, in particular, the Rational Mastermind.

Abstract Utilitarians (NT)

             Rational Masterminds are abstract in their word usage but utilitarian in their tools.  The “prefer to appear unemotional when they communicate,” and this is seen clearly in O’Connor’s protagonist when Pointer desires to see her artificial leg: “There was nothing about her face or her round, freezing-blue eyes to indicate that this had moved her; but she felt as if her heart had stopped and left her mind to pump the blood” (467-68). 


            Intellectually, Keirsey says Rationals seek to “increase the efficient operation” of things, and Hulga tries to do just that (169).  Mastering tasks difficult for a person with one leg, Hulga speeds efficiently through the woods while Pointer is “breathing heavily behind her” (466).  When faced with the act of climbing a ladder, Hulga accomplishes it “expertly,” leaving the young man “awestruck” (466).   Even when Pointer tells a joke, Hulga’s “expression remained exactly the same,” an anesthetic indeed (464). 


            Rationals’ interests lie not in “clerical or maintenance” but in how systems work and “logical investigation,” and Hulga possesses these interests, too (Keirsey 176).  O'Connor tells us the young woman sat all day “reading,” and that although “she went for walks . . . she didn’t like dogs or cats or birds or flowers or nature or nice young men” (459).  And the books Hulga read were apparently science texts, clearly the purview of a Rational.  Hulga has even worked out a system of rational self-determinism, declaring to Pointer, an alleged Christian, “I don’t even believe in God” (465).  Yet her pursuit of such a young man, a spirited, free moving individual, fits with the Rational Mastermind’s need to have mates who are “independent” (Keirsey 201).  Additinally, Hulga is not at all put off by Pointer’s fast-moving, forward nature as Masterminds desire to cut through “idle chitchat” and get down to business (Keirsey 201).


            Keirsey notes the “pragmatic perspective” of Rationals and how “the only thing that cannot be doubted is the act of rational doubt” (179-80).  Hulga is undoubtedly a Rational Mastermind, “self-confident” as we find her analyzing the intellect of Pointer, the apparently simple bible salesman (Keirsey 200).  She fancies how her “true genius can get an idea across even to an inferior mind” and is skeptical of Pointer even as she finds herself going to the gate to meet him for their secret rendezvous: “When she reached the gate no one was there.  She looked up and down the empty highway and had the furious feeling that she had been tricked . . . ” (465). 


            O’Connor’s text leaves no suspicion as to Hulga’s Rational temperament, particularly when we view the protagonist’s self-image.  She wants to be prided for her genius and brags to Pointer “I have a number of degrees” (467).  Additionally, Hulga prides herself on her autonomy, coming and going as she pleases despite the often-watchful eye of her mother and Mrs. Freeman.  Keirsey says that Rational Masterminds see themselves and want others to see them as “ingenious, autonomous, and resolute” (199).  In this, we see Hulga carefully weighing her decisions and planning, whether in her seduction fantasies or in her picnic with the young charlatan.  This is a trait of the Rational Mastermind.  Once Hulga makes up her mind, she promptly executes her plan.


Yet if Hulga is anything, she is most certainly calm and reasonable, values of a Rational.  Even when she is experiencing emotional turmoil or facing embarrassing flattery, Hulga is “blank and solid and silent (464).  Yet this anesthetic reaction does not preclude her Rational Mastermind need for achievement and knowledge.  This is, in part, why she parades her books around her mother and touts her academic credentials before Pointer; it is not because Hulga is necessarily prideful or haughty but mostly because she has a core need to be recognized for her aspiring genius.  Yet, as Keirsey notes, Rationals “cannot ask for deference . . . it must come to them spontaneously in their work” (191-92).  In this case, Pointer deftly identifies that of which Hulga is most proud: her success in overcoming her disability both physically (as seen in moving fast and climbing the ladder) and emotionally (compartmentalizing the “shame” by pursuing “education”) (467).  Though couched in deception and ulterior motive, this praise plays to Hulga’s core values.

Social Roles

            Hulga, as one can imagine, has no illusions about love or romance.  Pointer’s first kiss “went at once to her brain . . . pleased to discover that it was an unexceptional experience and all a matter of the mind’s control (465-66).  This rationalization is due, in large part, to her need not to find a soulmate but rather a mindmate, a “desire for intellectual sharing” over heartfelt sharing (Keirsey 193).  This is why Hulga chooses to debate the young false paramour on theism and insists “there mustn’t be any dishonesty between us” (467).  It is not as much that she has an aversion to dishonesty as much as she has a core need, as a Rational, to openly and honestly communicate intellectually with a mate. 

            As we can see, Abstract Utilitarians (NTs) such as Hulga in Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” readily fall into the Keirseyian temperament category of Rational Mastermind.


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