Change is ever present aspect of human life. The dynamic nature of the society and the environment means that people cannot afford to stay in the same position and must adapt their lifestyles, attitude and behavior occasionally in order to fit in. This description is fitting to the involuntary type of change. On the other hand, change can be voluntary especially when it is motivated by personal convictions such as the desire for success. Change is a theme that appears in many literature publications. “Young Goodman Brown” and “Sweat’ are two famous short stories that feature characters going through change. This paper aims to explore the changes that occur in two of the characters in these stories and the implications of this change. The two characters are Delia Jones from ‘Sweat” and Goodman Brown from “Young Goodman Brown”. The paper aims to show that the consequences of change can be either negative or positive in regards to the status of one’s life.
Delia Sweat is the main character in “Sweat”. At the beginning the story, Delia is a sensitive, likable and hardworking woman who is, unfortunately, under constant abuse from her cruel and controlling husband, Sykes. She is depicted as an all-round character with a variety of different emotions but who is also familiar with almost all facets of life. She is very proud of her work that involves washing clothes for the white people. He husband who on the other hand does not work constantly abuses and despises her in spite of the fact that she is the one who pays for the house they live and buys the food that they eat. Perhaps even more surprising the fact that her husband acts so horribly towards her while he is very sweet and polite to his mistress.
However, the day arrives when Delia decides she has had enough, and this is where her transformation or change commences. Outraged by her husband’s constant condescension and despise, she screams at him reminding him of how hard she works to support them. Wanting to emphasize her point, she picks up an iron skillet intending to strike who is at this moment is shocked as he is used to abusing her without any reaction from her.
From this moment, Delia changes from a submissive character who endures constant abuse to an extremely defensive and aggressive character.
Her husband tries to antagonize her further by bringing a snake into the house knowing very well that Delia is extremely fearful of snakes. With her new found aggressiveness, she gives her husband an ultimatum to remove the snake from the house or she will report him to the white folks.
He total change is further revealed near the end of the tale when her husband is bitten by the same snake that he had used to antagonize her with. Delia does nothing to help him depicting which is a major shift from her former submissive character. Through her change in character Delia attains empowerment after the years of abuse that she has suffered from her husband. It this case, her change can be said to be positive because although it is associated with a tragic event which is the death of her husband, she is able to find empowerment and success.
Unlike Delia whose changes are positive, Young Goodman Brown change is not that positive in nature. The story begins in an evening where Goodman is saying goodbye to his wife and setting off to attend to a certain task. Although his wife does not want him to go as she does not know what the dark holds, he says goodbye to her and leaves. He meets an old man along the way who tells him that he is the Devil and in spite of emphasizing that him and his forefathers have been Christians for a long time; he follows him. They come across an old woman who is known in the village for her good deeds but reveals herself to be a witch and this when Goodman learns they are on their way to an evil ceremony to initiate two new recruits. Goodman is alter amazed to see many of his village mates and even his wife on their way to the evil ceremony. He cries out to the heavens suddenly; he realizes that he is alone in the forest and cannot determine whether it was all a dream.
The experience at the forest completely changes Goodman for the worst. Once he gets back to the village; he looks at all the people he had seen including his wife and the village preacher with utter disgust. He isolates himself and for the remainder of his life, he lives with despair and suspicion and in the end dies as a bitter, lonely man.
Delia and Goodman’s Brown both go through deafening changes. However, the impending fortunes for the two are very different. Delia change is voluntary because she activates it herself. On the other hand, Goodman Brown’s change can be seen to be involuntary because it is brought about by an unexpected incidence that changes his outlook on life forever. While Delia change is positive and causes an improvement of her life, and Goodman Brown’s change is negative and only degrades his life. This is proof of the fact, change does not always means change of fortunes for the better; change can be also be negative and can lead to a person’s downfall.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. Charlottesville, Va.: University of Virginia Library, 1996. Print.
Hurston, Zora Neale, and Cheryl A. Wall. Sweat. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1997. Print.