James N. Coppock
ENGL 8800 – Rational
Dr. John J. McKenna
Feb. 15, 2008
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).
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)
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
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.
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
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.