Xun Zi, one of the most influential philosophers of China in the old time, states that, “Human nature is evil, and goodness is caused by intentional activity”. Indeed, it can be clearly seen in the figures of the protagonists in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by James Carol Oates and “Young Goodman Brown” by Natalie Hawthorne. Though written two eras apart in the past by two different authors, these two short stories have much in common. Both stories have several references to evil along with a revolution in the main characters’ life; therefore, they explore common themes of vulnerability to evil and dangers lurking in the adult world as well as meaningful lessons about the consequences of bad decision-making.
Although Goodman Brown and Connie do not seem to be identical characters at first, a closer look at their thoughts and behaviors at the encounters with the two evil figures reveal significant resemblances suggests that the writers’ views of human personality and human nature are quite similar. When it comes to literature work, the discrepancy between a character’s outer and inner world is undoubtedly popular, hence these two stories are no exception. The protagonists have two different personalities, in other words, two different sides which they are choosing between. Apparently, this also generally illustrates the two sides of a human being - good and evil. In “Young Goodman Brown”, when being at home, Brown himself lies to his wife about his deceitful errand to the forest that he’s about to make. Additionally, it’s likely that the stranger whom he meets on his way embodies the evil side of himself. The f...
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Overall, the resemblance between the two stories’ themes and meanings is remarkable. The protagonists have an impulsive coming-of-age experience under the influence of evil in crossing the boundaries of the adult’s world. Both stories teach the readers lessons about the contrast between illusion and reality. The two protagonists, Connie and Brown, aren’t sure if they are only dreaming or if it’s reality and are lost in finding their identities as they let the evil overpower the good in their own selves. Just like them, we human beings are not living in a perfect world where the good would win every conflict against the evil. Furthermore, a valuable lesson learned from these stories is that we had better think carefully before making decisions to avoid unwanted aftermath. Once you’ve made a decision, the bitter fact is that there is no turning back.
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