The Turning Points In Three Stories English Literature Essay

1488 words (6 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 English Literature Reference this


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One of the most important aspects of a story lies in the dynamic interactions of the different characters in it. Specially, it is on the main character that the story mainly revolves around and thus, it has the power to direct readers' attentions. The main character of a story is called protagonist and there can be more than one main character in a story. The things happen to the main character, the way they are being reacted and the consequences or effects they bring are important factors for drawing readers' attentions. Katherine Anne Porter, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Zora Neale Hurston on their stories "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall," "Young Goodman Brown" and "Sweat" are able to take their readers all the way down to the end by wounding the protagonists' vanities through breaking what they value most: promise, trust and patience.

Porter's "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" present the main character, Ellen Weatheral, also called Granny Weatheral, as a sick eighty-year-old woman who has been through up and down of life and now laying on her dying bed. On this last day of her life, flashes of memories "[squeezes] out" from her heart-both to satisfy and to frustrate her (Kennedy 82). Porter moves back and forth freely from the present realities to the past memories without visible time boundaries and confuses readers so that to show the confusions in the Granny Weather's mind. As the title itself foreshadow, Granny Weatherall had been jilted. Sixty years before, she was being left alone at the altar sweating inside a "white veil" and in front of an untouched "white cake" (82). By then her husband to be, George, did not show up at all. The feeling of 'being jilted' was so devastating and it has been affecting her throughout her lifetime.

However, as time passes, she is able to go through changes that to some extent heal parts of her wounded vanity. Even if he is not alive today, she wishes to let George knows that she is "'given back everything he took away and more'" (83). Somehow, she is satisfied in her accomplishments in life. After he jilted her, she married another man called John and bore four children with him. Even though John died at a younger age, she was successful to raises the children alone. She fantasizes the memories and "[wishes] the old days were back again with the children young and everything to be done over" (81).

Some twenty years before, she was assuming of dying soon. However, death had never come by. Now, at the time she less think of it and unprepared for it, it comes to her as an endless mass of darkness. Even thought she hates the surprise, she believes that she has already secured "a straight road to God" (84). Her life, as a dot of light in the bottomless of the darkness, is waiting sign from God so that to be taken to heaven. God might be late or does not come at all. Nevertheless, Granny Weatherall, as a person who had been jilted before, has no courage to withstand the feeling and to wait. She once again feels 'being jilted.' However, this time it is by what she value most and "'there's nothing more cruel than this-[she]'ll never forgive it'" (85). With this break of the promise of eternal life, her self-importance become permanently lost and she 'decide' to end her life by blowing out the spot light.

On the second story, the "Young Goodman Brown," Hawthorne presented a young man called Young Goodman Brown who is newly married with a young woman, called Faith. Hawthorne used such symbolic naming so that to magnify the roles of the characters. The story opens with Young Goodman Brown leaving to a forest at night with a curious "evil purpose" -a mysterious journey to see the devil (420). When he leaves home, he feels sad for abandoning Faith at night and promises for himself that this will be for once and for all. However, what he is going to experience at this night would change him far more than what he imagined.

While Brown fearfully hurries into the forest, he encounters an old man who seems the devil himself. Soon after, Brown feels bad and begins cursing himself for being the first to participate in such wickedness in his family line, whom he assumed them as "'a race of honest men and good Christians'" (421). The traveler argues by evidencing himself as collaborator of Brown's ancestors while they were committing crimes of persecution and genocide. Later on, Brown noticed an old woman, who had thought him catechism as youth and who currently is his counselor, proceeding into the darkness. Even though this tempted him for a while, he realizes that this woman's choice to ruin her life has nothing to do with him and decides to stop to move forward-hoping to return home. However, before long he hears horses' riders and recognize "the voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin," discussing about the exciting meeting and the attractive young woman they are going to see (424). Even later, he recognized the voices of his village's peoples whom he presumes them as good peoples. The whole thing shocked him to death! However, even with all these, he is still determined to resist the wicked: "'[with] heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!'" (424).

Nevertheless, after a while he hears the voice of his dear Faith and sees the pink ribbon, which was in her head when he left home, flying down to the tree in the forest. This collapses him; he loses his trust in humankind completely and acknowledges, "'[there] is no good on earth'" (425). This is the turning point where he rejects the vanities of the world and his moral code becomes completely paralyzed. In resentment and grief, he rushes to the congregation. At some point after he reached, when he was not able to find Faith there, he was hoping that his backsliding would heal. Yet, the "one look at his pale wife" makes the change irreversible (428). This fearful experience, whether it was dream or reality, make him to lead a distrustful and gloomy life afterwards.

Lastly, in her story, "Sweat," Hurston present the main character, Delia John, as a suppressed and exploited washerwoman who is married to an oppressive husband, Skyes Johns. Even if she has been in this abusive relationship for fifteen year, they had different expectations from the beginning: "[she] had brought love to the union and he had brought a longing after the flesh" (531). Throughout their life together, he has been mistreating her both physically and mentally, wasting her money and cheating frequently on her. However, still she is trying to cope with the situation by neglecting him and by "[avoiding] the villagers and meeting places in her efforts to be blind and deaf"(534) Even if she tried to bring peace back piece many times, he refused to do so as he has now another intention.

Now, he wants to throw out Delia as "'sugar-cane'" and lives with another woman at Delia's house (533). While he knew that she has an extreme fear for snake, thinking it would help him to push her out, he allows a rattlesnake to stay at the house. One time, when she complains that she is starving, as she is not able to go to the kitchen for fear of the snake, he affirms her that he has no plan to get rid of the snake at all. At that moment, her love to him grow blurred-"'Ah hate you tuh de same degree dat Ah useter love yuh. Ah done took an' took till mah belly is full up tuh mah neck.'"(535) However, it seems that he is not yet thrown out completely. She still hopes that he might feel regretful: "[perhaps] he was sorry" (536).

On the next day, while she comes home with relaxed mood from church and after she began working inside the house, she finds out that the snake is inside. Frightened to death, she is manages to escape and to lie on the barn of the house. While she is there, "coherent thought" comes toward her mind and she begins to make self-examinations (536). She realizes that, her life is now endangered and it is vivid that Skyes wants to kill her. She also becomes conscious that, it is futile to fight for this unfortunate marriage and there will nothing she will regret about: "'Well, Ah done de bes' Ah could. If things ain't right, Gawd knows tain't mah fault'" (536). After that, Skyes entered to the house and attached by the snake. As she is already utterly broken and wounded, even though she can hear his horrible screams, she does not have the gut to help. Even at the end, she rather wants him to realize she had been there the whole time he was being attached.

These three stories are similar in that they all have a turning point in which the main characters totally wounded their vanity. However, each was used for different purposes. Porter used that point to conclude the story as a loser, Nathaniel for brining permanent behaviors changes and Hurston for ending suppressions and miseries.

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