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Essay/Term paper: Symbol use within two short stories

Essay, term paper, research paper:  American Literature

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Symbol Use Within Two Short Stories



The authors, Shirley Jackson and Nathaniel Hawthorne, both frequently use symbols within their stories "The Lottery" and "Young Goodman Brown." Symbols are utilized as an enhancement tool to stress the theme of each story. Hawthorne uses names and objects to enhance the theme, and Jackson mainly utilizes names to stress the theme, although she does have one object as a symbol of great importance to the theme. The stories both contain symbols describing evil. The majority of Hawthorne"s symbols describe religion (both good and evil), but Jackson"s symbols reflect the evil nature within society as a whole. There exists symbolic acts in each story. The short stories both share the use of symbols, but the symbols are used to express different thoughts in ones mind while reading them.

The stories "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Lottery" both use names as symbols. Hawthorne uses the names Young Goodman Brown and Faith to portray nice, descent people. The name Faith alone implies a faithful and Christian individual as stated "And Faith, as the wife was aptly named," (211). Jackson uses the name Mr. Graves throughout her story, he is the coordinator of the lottery. She needs not give any explanation to the name, as it speaks for itself (a symbol of death). Various other names are used as symbols within each story, however, these mentioned are the most significant names to the theme. The stories each contain names, objects, and acts as important symbols.

Hawthorne uses the names to stress good people, but relies heavily on objects to portray Satanism. The object of obvious Satanism is the staff (a cane) mentioned throughout the story. It is clearly identified when the old traveler throws it down in the sentence "it assumed life, being one of the rods which its owner had formerly lent to the Egyptian Magi" (215). According to the Bible. sorcerers with magic powers change their rods into serpents. Jackson uses the black box throughout her story as a symbol of tradition not to be changed as stated "Every year, after the lottery, Mr. Summers began talking about a new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fade off without anything"s being done" (249). The fact it is an old black wore out box puts evil thoughts in ones mind while reading the story. The symbolic objects in each story differ, Hawthorne"s are to show Satanism, rather than the evil in people as Jackson"s shows.

The stories each contain symbolic acts. The devil"s comments during his sermon such as "Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness" (220) is a clear symbolic act of Satanism, although Satanism is never mentioned by the author. Jackson uses symbolic acts to stress the evil in mankind. An example is Mrs. Delacroix, a friend of Tessie"s, chooses a large rock to throw "Mrs. Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands" (254). Additionally evil in people is clearly proven in the statement "The children had stones already, and someone gave little Davey Hutchinson a few pebbles" (254). One finds it not only hard to believe the children would participate, but her son participating in his own mother"s death too, makes this an incredible symbolic act of evil. Symbolic acts play a major role to the theme of each story although they are used to express different meanings.

The two short stories, "Young Goodman Brown and "The Lottery", are very similar regarding the importance of symbols to each. The meaning of the symbols, whether names, objects, or acts, are different. Symbols are important in each story to define the theme. Close observation of the symbols within each story proves to one their importance.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown"
Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana
Gioia. 6th ed. New York: Harper Collins, 1995. 211-220

Jackson, Shirley. "The Lottery"
Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana
Gioia 6th ed. New York: Harper Collins, 1995. 248-254






 

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