Character Construction

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Villains in fairy tales and other children's stories are almost always indicated by certain ‘evil' traits, whether those be overt (ugliness, an intimidating glare) or less noticeable (sly actions or unscrupulousness). In the short 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, however, the villains possess few clear ‘evil' traits. They remain masked to the protagonists in their respective stories until it is too late. In both of these stories, the villains are quite similar in their ways, despite their differing motivations. Likewise, the devices used to characterize them, mostly dialogue but also physical traits, are also similar. It is these devices that make these characters who they are and allow them to manipulate their victims in each of the stories. Characterization of The Misfit begins almost as soon as the reader is introduced to him. When the threesome get out of their car, the descriptions of the two younger men's physical traits and actions making them seem somewhat suspicious, with one of their men's hats covering his face almost completely, like a bank robber, and the other younger man smiling with a "kind of loose grin" (273). Only The Misfit, with his graying hair and glasses, has a sophisticated appearance, described as having a "scholarly look" (273). Once the presence of guns is established, however, the men, even The Misfit, seem threatening. This initial visualized impression of the men sharply contrasts with The Misfit's cordial attitude towards the stricken family, though. Despite his demeanor, he appears almost gentlemanly. These contradicting elements of characterization are certainly confusing to the reader, but as the story continues, this contrast between The Misfit's personas can be seen as a common theme. Further characterization occurs as The Misfit laments that he was not present during the Resurrection to see Christ raised along with the others. He...
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