The two short stories "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne and "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor both have characters who allow their lives to be altered by the threat of evil. A detour taken by the family in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" wreaks havoc, while the wrong path taken by "Young Goodman Brown" leads him to despair. Although Brown, The Misfit, and the Grandmother have different attitudes and take different approaches to evil, all characters eventually go astray and end up isolated from society. Evil is prevalent in both stories as journeys are made down the wrong path. The symbolisms in both stories represent lack of faith and death. Brown is a perfect example of how discovering the existence of evil brings one to view the world in a cynical way. The loneliness and confusion Brown feels represents a life without God, allowing him to be deceived by Satan, unable to escape the presence of evil. The Grandmother perceives herself as a morally good character though her actions seem to create a downfall for the family. The Misfit is portrayed as an evil man who is a cold-blooded killer, which is brought on by his evil perceptions of people, and lack of goodness in his life. Both stories illustrate how sac religious behavior is evil. one will see how a relationship with God is good. Unfortunately, as the journeys progress, evil tragically changes lives forever. While different in many ways, both stories show how abandoning one's Christian faith can allow evil to creep into their lives.
In O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find", the story begins with the family planning a trip to Florida. The grandmother is a manipulative woman. She does not value her life as it is, but longs for her life in the past. "People are certainly not nice like they used to be" (455). Rather than going on a trip to Florida, she wants to go on a trip to Tennessee. After reading the newspaper, she informs the family about The Misfit being loose from the Federal Pen, heading to Florida, which is the reasoning she uses to persuade her family change their plans. Grandmother was dressed in her straw hat and navy dress with her white gloves, representing her "Sunday best". She desperately wants the children to see an old plantation that she had visited when she was young in a town called Toombsboro. Unfortunately, while on the side road looking for the plantation, the family tragically ends up in the path of The Misfit. In Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown", Brown's wife, Faith, pleads with him not to leave on his journey, but he is determined to go his own way. As he enters the forest, he states, "Faith kept me back awhile" (265). This quote allows readers to realize Faith was delaying his travel, and his faith in God was postponing his journey. As Brown enters the forest, he is greeted by Satan who lures him into a dark world. Brown's lack of faith is evident when the devil sends him a false vision of the many good people around him engaged in a terrible ritual. Both of these stories begin with travels down a road less traveled to a place where they think happiness will be found. Unfortunately, evil meets them and changes their lives forever.
Although both stories begin with happiness, evil is present in many different ways. While trying to find the plantation in "A Good Man is Hard to Find", the family has to turn on a side road to get to a town called Toombsboro. The name of this town is symbolic of being buried in a tomb. After turning on the side road, which looked like it had not been traveled in months, the family has a wreck. The Misfit happens to be in the truck that stops to help them. After the grandmother realizes who The Misfit is, she desperately tries to "save" him, repeatedly asking him to pray. After refusing any help, the Misfit blames Jesus for everything wrong in his life. "Jesus thrown everything off balance. It was the same case with Him as with me except He hadn't committed any crime and they could prove I had..." (461). Both stories make reference to the darkness in the sky. The Misfit remarked, "Ain't a cloud in the sky. Don't see no sun but don't see no cloud neither" (458). As Brown looks up to the heavens to pray, a dark cloud appears, rather than the bright sun. The darkness is symbolic of the uncertainty and doubt they are facing. Furthermore, as Brown leaves the path of righteousness, he runs wildly into the forest, a symbolism of him taking the evil path. While Brown is in the forest, he sees witches meeting to induct many people from his village into an evil brotherhood. At one point he hears Faith's voice fading away into the crowd and he finally surrenders to darkness. Young Goodman Brown cries out, "My Faith is gone!" (270). All of these events are foreshadowing evil which ultimately will result in their spiritual death or physical death.
Although both stories have similarities with evil, there are many differences. O'Connor's grandmother is a judgmental and self-centered person who is unaware of her own flaws until she is faced with death. During her final moments, she tries to reach out to the Misfit, telling him "You've got good blood! I know you wouldn't shoot a lady..Pray! Jesus, you ought not shoot a lady..." (461). The Misfit, withdrawing ever deeper into the dank recesses of his memories, hardly seems to hear her words, or even to notice her, until she mentions Jesus. And then, misjudging his reaction, she makes the great mistake of reaching out to touch him. Ultimately, The Misfit recognizes that she is good, saying "She would have been a good woman...if it had been somebody here to shoot her every minute of her life" (462). Unfortunately, it takes being faced with death to cause the grandmother to have a life changing moment. The Misfit ends the story by telling his evil partner to "Shut Up, Bobby Lee...it's no real pleasure in life" (462). The Misfit is the perfect example of a Godless man in a Godless society. He is a killer who is raised without spirituality. As a result of his evil spirit, the entire family is ruthlessly murdered by The Misfit. Hawthorne's Brown represents human beings confronted with temptation or trying to satisfy their curiosity. Brown is determined to go on a journey, even though his wife Faith pleads with him to stay. After traveling through the forest, Brown is unable to return to the life he once knew. He became "a stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man...from the night of that fearful dream" (273). In the end Brown loses his wife Faith, and his spiritual faith. The evil road taken by Brown, The Misfit and Grandmother ultimately changes their lives forever.