Hulga is sure that she believes in nothing. Trapped in a house with a mother who treats her as a child and several “good country folk,” she sulks until she meets a bible salesman, Manley Pointer, who accepts her as she is and leads her on a wild chase, where he finally betrays her.
The main idea here is the concept of “nothing.” The story addresses this question in several ways, with dialogue with Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman, Hulga’s futile task of getting her mother to see her as she really is, and Hulga’s unsuccessful attempt at seduction. Other important ideas are what is “good,” which is illustrated with Mrs. Hopewell’s overgeneralizations and then Manley’s wordplay of the word “good.”
My heart goes out to Hulga, not because I liked her particularly, but because she was so snobbish and intellectual that I had a feeling that she was going to get it at the end. Usually, I wouldn’t be able to stand such characters, but because of Mrs. Hopewell’s ambivalence towards her daughter and Mrs. Freeman’s cool black eyes, I felt sorry for her at once. It is interesting how her fake leg is described as where her soul is kept, and perhaps the reason why she is so resentful of everyone is that nobody seems to care. Her mother begs her to go on walks, ignoring her leg entirely, while Mrs. Freeman is curious about that leg, in a very creepy way. It seems like Manley Pointer is the one who was genuinely fascinated by it.
When Manley Pointer came in, my interest was piqued at once, because he did seem to be an angel in a way, since he was actually able to annoy Mrs. Hopewell and everyone else, yet they ended up liking him well enough in the end. I also figured that he would start a romance with Hulga, though I had no idea it would turn out like that.
It is interesting how Hulga imagined seducing him, saying, “She imagined that she took his remorse in hand and changed it into a deeper understanding of life. She took all his shame away and turned it into something useful.” In effect, this is what happens, but it happens to her, not him. Her firm belief in “nothing” is shattered, because he tears away her “soul” and she realizes that there is something after all.
My main question is, why is there such an emphasis put on Mrs. Freeman? I feel like I am missing something important here, because I can imagine this story occurring without her, yet she seems to play an important role. Also, besides comparing her daughters with Hulga, why do her daughters keep getting mentioned?