Three short stories are presented in this paper written by some of the well-known short story writers of our time: The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne; Killings by Andre Dubus, and; Good Country People by Flannery O’Connor. In all these short stories, the theme of hubris and empathy are so interwoven with each other that one would not have much impact without the presence of the other.
The short story Good Country People pits hubris and empathy, albeit largely pretended, between two of its major characters. One is a 32-year old girl who, embittered by an incident that took one of her legs when she was still a child, pursued higher learning and used it to shield herself from the agony of being different. She adopted a haughty and condescending attitude towards those who are simple and less bright fancying herself to be beyond them. Stomping around defiantly with a wooden leg attached to one of her legs, she is deprecating, for example, against the simplicity and naiveté of others even towards her good-natured mother. Her arrogance was put to a test when she met the other character, a supposedly Bible salesman, who she disparagingly refers to as one of those ‘good country people’ whose “naiveté” she is planning to exploit. What initially attracted her to the young man was his claim that he is suffering from a heart ailment, a condition she is also suffering and which has compelled her to stay home rather than put her PhD to use teaching in universities. This makes her feel that she is sharing something in common with him and additionally, despite his ‘ingenuousness’ he seems to understand the importance she attaches to her artificial limb. However, instead of her playing the young man, it turned out that she is the one being played by him. Confident that she is in control, she allowed him to lure her to a secluded barn with the plan