Analysis through Comparison and Contrast

The two stories A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor and Where Are You Going. Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates reveals a number of glaring similarities and differences.  When reading the two stories for the first time, these similarities may not appear readily apparent. Indeed, it is not until one attempts to analyze the two in details that they will come face to face with glaring similarities with respect to the writing styles and techniques used by the two authors Joyce Carol Oates and Flannery O’Connor.

To begin with, the major characters and lead protagonists for each of the two stories are female. O’Connor’s female character is referred to simply as ‘grandmother’ while Carol’s central character is Connie, a teenage girl. While the respective major characters are clearly from different generations, they seem to share a lot in common especially in terms of character and this inevitably draws parallels to the two stories. One easily observes that both characters are self-centered, vain and inherently selfish.

The grandmother’s selfish character is portrayed in the fact that she, to the detriment of the others with her, insists on taking her cat with her on their trip because she does not want to miss her or have her brush against the gas burners at home which she fears might kill her. Connie on the other hand appears to be so self-centered that she does not think of anybody else but herself. While Connie’s selfish behavior can be said to be common among teenage girls, it casted her as being inconsiderate of the feelings of her family. Both grandmother and Connie also come out as being overly manipulative. They both manage to conceitedly manipulate their families, in most cases for their own selfish ends. The grandmother in her urge to see the old plantation again talks about it over and over again developing an interest in the grandchildren to see it. As a result, they force their Father to drive to what the grandmother believes is the location of the old plantation which they later realize was not accurate. Connie, on the other hand thinks that her mother is easily fooled and takes advantage of that to fool her. Her mother however turns out to be completely different and notices that there is something strange about the daughter’s behavior.

Another similarity is that each protagonist’s dishonesty ultimately leads to their demises. During their journey, the grandmother churns out lie after lie. It is her lie that there is a secret plantation that leads them to finally take the dusty road where they finally meet their killer. It is also another of her lies about her car that leads them to wreck making them vulnerable to the Misfit who finally murders the entire family. O’Connor writes ‘“There was a secret panel in this house ‘she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were….”’ Connie on the other hand adopts a deceptive attitude towards adults with an intention to make them believe that she is too young to explore her sexuality. This would give her the freedom she needed to do this. Oates writer ‘and her mother was simple and kind enough to believe it’. The two protagonists are have also been cast as very static. They tend to stick to certain traits and do not show much dynamism even in the face of changing circumstances.

In both stories, the tone is reflective and sad. Listening to the story, one is almost convinced that the characters would have regretted their behavior had they lived through their various ordeals. In O’Connor’s and Oates’ stories, the tone though extremely violent, remains utterly blasé. The reader is constantly aware of the cynicism with which the other character seems to treat the lead character.

Flannery and Oates also use imagery in the two stories. In Where Are You Going. Where Have You Been, the evil boy’s car which is said to be old fashioned and decorated in weird graphics is a symbol of the boy’s unbecoming character. In A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor metaphorically uses trees as well as other symbols to effectively communicate his message.

The two stories can be viewed as a story of evil versus good. Both characters evil but seemingly innocent behavior leads them to meet an evil male character who then punishes them for such behavior. They both appear to pay heavy prices in the hands of these male characters for their sins.

But perhaps the most fascinating and intriguing thing about these stories is the use of point of view by the two authors. Viewed in a technical perspective, it can be noted that the two stories were written in the third person point of view. The authors however still manage to allow the readers hear the stories through the voice of the major female characters in each of the story. Employing this technique the writers are able to engage their readers through the adventure the lead characters go through without a single glimpse into the minds of other characters. Oates is quick to state right from the onset of the story that it is Connie’s. As a result, the events enable the reader to see through Connie’s eyes, and deep into her mind despite the fact that the story is told by a third party.

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