Brian Symonds Professor Kevin Munnings Internet English Composition II 2/17/2008 Literary Analysis: Short Stories Like all

forms of literature, short-stories examine life, situational elements; they explore cultures, values, experiences as felt by the young and the old. Short-stories, exclusively, in literature, prove that big things come in small packages. Short-stories are a refreshing reminder in the literary world that longevity, sometimes, cannot equate the power of a few pages of perfectly brief arrangements of words. Short-stories provide the flipside of literature, like poetry, that uses it’s brevity as a tool in conveying its message. These things have never been more evident than in the following three stories: “Where are you Going, Where have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. In “Where Are You Going, Where Have You been”, the protagonist is an adolescent girl, age fifteen, named Connie. Connie is pretty and vain, insecure in her identity, and beginning to explore and study the opposite sex. Internally she is conflicted by the pulls of womanhood and childhood simultaneously. She is in a phase of adolescent insecurity placing her in need of the reassurance of others to enforce her idea of her attractiveness and likeability. The major conflict Connie faces is Arnold Friend, who is a dangerous representation of all the horrors that could victimize a young girl. In “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, the protagonist is the grandmother,

whom no other name is given. The grandmother is presented as an old southern woman who is set in her ways, superficial, overly concerned with class and creed, and ignorant of true religious knowledge and insight. She is conflicted with the world around her, spending her time living in the past, refusing to move forward. Her major conflict is with the Misfit at the end of the story. Unfortunately, it can’t be said that this conflict is representative of good and evil, because the grandmother doesn’t embody “good”. Instead she represents a person devoid of truth, filled up with only societal religious views and societal responses. She sparsely knows herself or Jesus, yet she attempts to psychoanalyze the Misfit, who has analyzed himself and his plight honestly and is much more mentally prepared for this confrontation than the grandmother. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the protagonist is an unnamed woman suffering from depression. The woman is internally conflicted by how she feels and how she is supposed to feel. Her sanity is hanging in the balance due to the external conflict with her husband and all that he represents in suppressing and ultimately, suffocating her. Her husband and brother have dismissed any real illness and instead think she is merely being whimsical. This and the societal view that men are decidedly the only ones fit to assess her sanity, coupled with the fact that her voice and own selfassessment falls on deaf ears is her biggest challenge. All of these protagonists face similar dilemmas. They are all women at various stages of life, all of which are pivotal points of the human experience. Connie and the grandmother both face villainous antagonists and the unnamed protagonist in “The Yellow Wallpaper” faces an equally ghastly force in the onset of insanity. All the women are real victims of their circumstance because none of them committed any real wrong, and yet life made examples of them as what not to be. In “Where are you going, Where Have you Been”, the name, Arnold Friend, itself represents irony, his name says “friend” when he is anything but. Arnold Friend, as a whole,

represents evil and the predatory world whereas Connie represents the innocent, vulnerable youth. Symbolism in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is used in reference to the house the grandmother wants to visit, in pursuit of which ends in the family’s deaths. This represents her clinging to the past and how her recollections of the past are distorted. Death is symbolized in the graveyard they pass containing five or six graves, and in a town’s name they pass through which is “Toombsboro”. The family stops at a place called “The Tower” where the grandmother talks about “the good old days” with its proprietor. In tarot readings the tower card represents catastrophe and what the mind uses to understand universal truths; it would seem this definition applies in the story as well. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the actual yellow wallpaper is symbolic of the protagonist’s mindset. As she disintegrates, so does the yellow wallpaper in her eyes. The woman is being kept in a “nursery” by her husband, which represents her as childlike, unable to care for herself. I found the symbolism of “the yellow wallpaper” in its various states to be very explanatory of the protagonist’s thoughts and sense of self. In “Where are You Going, Where Have you Been”, the main theme is the vulnerability of teenagers, especially girls, when faced with a beguiling figure intent on manipulation and harm. Present also is the theme of sexual awakening and the curiosities it creates, leaving the door open for predators. Joyce Carol Oates could have chosen to explore these themes because of the prevalence of predators seeking to exploit adolescents in society. In “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, a theme is the decline of humanity in regards to respecting heritage and one another, a second theme is superficial religious beliefs versus the knowledge gained by intense, honest, self exploration as in that of the Misfit. The theme of declining standards of humanity shows that with each step away from morals, religion and respect, humanity comes a step closer to the brutal macabre being commonplace. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the theme is the oppression and

suffocation of another’s existence will only result in that person’s demise. The protagonist’s husband literally suffocated the sanity out of her. Stifling an individual’s thoughts, opinions, and beliefs will end in that individual stifling their own thoughts, opinions, and beliefs, leaving an empty shell. The three stories, “Where are You Going, Where Have You Been”, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” are all important in literature as being representative of the individuals fight against existing powers, possible threats, and being stifled by social thoughts and assumptions. Each story tells of horrible fates that can befall individuals when the wrong roads are taken and bad decisions are made. These stories are important as symbols of human frailty and descending the depths of human existence to learn valuable life lessons. These types of stories are why exploring literature is a life tool.