Stephen King’s Novel the Man in the Black Suit

Several elements in stories have cascaded across several generations of literature and the implications of new perspectives have evolved into decedents with passed down literal elements that manifested into different storylines. As the audience, we have become familiar with different types of themes, moods, tones, and other literary elements that can be made on a spectrum of different genres and storylines. Stephen King’s novel “The man in the Black Suit” king uses several symbols, and literary elements like characters and settings that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Young Goodman Brown” also used.

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In Stephen King’s The Man in the Black Suit” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” their physical settings are identical. In King’s short story it takes place in the deep forest of Maine, while Hawthorne takes place in the deep forest. The similarities between these two stories’ settings contains an underlying symbol that’s present in both stories. The time period of which “Young Goodman Brown” is set in is towards the end of the twentieth century, which is the same time period of the Salem Witch Trials.

Historically, during this time the colonies were stretched across the east coast. Their were pockets of towns surrounded by forest and the belief was that evil lurked inside the forest, and those that traveled outside the towns limits were subjected to inevitable death. Once the protagonist sets forth on his journey into the woods he is met with visions that cloud his beliefs and make him second guess his relationships. In King’s short story it takes place in the town of Mutton, Maine during the early 1900s, the town is a very rural town also surrounded by forest. Though the forest in “the man in the black suit” isn’t referred to as “hellish” or where evil resides, this specific setting for both stories is the gateway for the stories to become a quest.

Both characters venture into the forest to seek different entities. Goodman brown and Gary both desire to tame something, to go beyond their own comfort zones. In “the man in the black suit” Gary’s desire so purer, simply because he wanted to use the bamboo stick his father brought it for him, “He’d given me a bamboo pole the week before—not because it was my birthday or anything, but just because he liked to give me things, sometimes— and I was wild to try it in Castle Stream.” (48). While in “young goodman brown” his desire is more daring and bold, because of his search for the devil himself and the true evils that puritans were terrified of for centuries. “With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose. He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind.”

Gary’s confrontation with the devil differs from Goodman Brown, Gary awakes to bee on his nose “All of my horrified attention was fixed on the fat black-and-yellow thing that was using my nose as a rest-stop. I slowly poked out my lower lip and blew upward.” (51). Gary essentially awakens to death on his nose, because his brother died a year prior. Then seeing the bee fell into his life, lifeless. Then emerges the devil in an elegant suit and presented with a form of false grace. While in Goodman brown the devil does not confront Brown in his own being but instead takes the shape of an ordinary person making Brown realize that everybody has the capability to conduct evil. This realization makes him terrified and even more so that his wife, has this capability.

The devil is known for taking on many different personas, In the bible, the devil is known to take the shape of animals, for example, Adam and Eve. In the book of Genesis the devil takes the shape of a serpent and conveniences Eve to consume the forbidden fruit, causing her and Adam to be banished from paradise. In Young Goodman Brown the devil take the shape of an ordinary man that resembled Brown, but possessed a staff that resembled a serpent, a symbol of the presence of the devil, “As nearly as could be discerned, the second traveler was about fifty years old, apparently in the same rank of life as Goodman Brown, and bearing a considerable resemblance to him, though perhaps more in expression than features. Still, they might have been taken for father and son.” (line 13).

In the bible the devil tempts Jesus while on his journey through the desert for forty days and forty nights. He attempts to prove Christ powers, to which he denies proving him twice, then the devil tempts him with the riches of the world, yet he declines. In “The Man in the Black Suit” the devil approaches temptation on the other end of the stick,the devil tells Gary his mom has died due to a bee sting while in the kitchen and floods his mind with the thought of his mom suffocating “The bee flew in the window and lit on her neck. She slapped at it before she even knew what she was doing—you were wiser than that, weren’t you, Gary?—and the bee stung her. She felt her throat start to close up at once. That’s what happens, you know, to people who are allergic to bee venom. Their throats close and they drown in the open air.” (57). The devil finished his pitch and wanted gary to submit himself to the devil because he had nobody to live for and allow the devil to consume him “I’m starving,” he said abruptly. “I’m going to kill you and tear you open and eat your guts, little fisher boy… Also, you’ll go to Heaven, think of that. Murdered souls always go to Heaven. So we’ll both be serving God this afternoon, Gary. Isn’t that nice?” (58).

An apparent theme that both stories contain is isolation. Both characters venture into the forest alone, traveling into an environment a person doesn’t know 100% of puts them at a disadvantage, especially a devil. In pictures, the devil is said to do his work on those who choose to travel alone, because that when he uses temptation, illusions, and our own thoughts and weaknesses against us in order to overcome us. In “Young Goodman Brown” the devil used a resemblance of brown to gain trust to continue his adventure into the forest, to which he finds the truth he wished he hadn’t unearths that shakes his faith and causes him to perceive the world and those close to him, differently. In “The Man in the Black Suit” when Gary wakes up from nap and the devil emerges and tries to take Gary, by saying his mother died, but underestimated Gary faith. after continuous denial the devil grew tired and said “I’m starving,” he said abruptly. “I’m going to kill you and tear you open and eat your guts, little fisherboy.”(58).

In “Young Goodman Brown” a subtle symbol is the presence of pink ribbons upon brown’s wife, Faith. When Brown ventures into the forest he leaves his wife and remembers her wearing the pink ribbon. When he encounters the devil he begins to realize that everybody no matter who it be, they have evil within them when he realizes this he hears the screams of a person that then fade into a sea of other voices. He then looks and see a pink ribbon on a branch to which he realizes that even his wife, his example of purity, also processes evil within her, “There was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices, fading into far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away, leaving the clear and silent sky above Goodman Brown. But something fluttered lightly down through the air, and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon.” (line 49).

In “The man in the black suit” The bee is presented as death, in the sense that Gary’s older brother died from a bee sting and the devil used the his mother dying from a bee sting as a way to take Gary’s life. In Greek mythology, the bee is considered as representing the sun or light and also personal power. When gary wakes up from his nap along the riverbank, a bee is sitting on his nose he tries to make it go away, but before it can move the devil emerges and kills the bee. The bee’s brief presence could be a foreshadowing of Gary’s personal power and not Gary facing the same death his brother had, “ I had been stung by bees before, and although the stings had swelled more than is perhaps usual (I can’t really say for sure), I had never died of them.”(52).

This could also represent the presence of God, the bee was Gary’s salvation because the bee landed on his nose he was fully awake, and the devil was lurking and was ready to consume Gary, but before he could attack Gary awaken,and the devils reaction was to kill the bee which foiled his plan. His personal power is shown throughout his altercation with the devil. His willpower to not let the thought of his mom dying to get to him and allow the devil to overcome him. His quick thinking to give the fish to the devil to substitute himself, “he slid the head of my nineteen-inch brook trout between his gaping jaws, I saw the scales along the sides of the fish rise up and begin to curl like bits of paper floating over an open incinerator.” (58).

Both stories have identical sequences in the way the story is executed, both protagonists venture into the forest alone, exposing themselves to whatever was lurking in the forest as well. Their encounter with the devil is considered where each story take different paths in confronting the devil because in “Young Goodman Brown” the devil is seen as a older man with similar features to Brown, while in “the man in the Black Suit” he presents himself elegantly but shows his true characteristics.

Their climaxes are considered to be identical symbols, both see the woman in their life, disfigured physically or spiritually symbolizing, for example inThe man in the Black suit,” “She made the most wonderfully awful noises,” the man in the black suit said reflectively, “and she scratched her face quite badly, I’m afraid. Her eyes bulged out like a frog’s eyes. She wept.”(57) and in “Young Goodman Brown” “ There was a scream… But something fluttered lightly down through the air, and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon” .This symbolizes that man’s dependence on women is vital, and seeing their only support tainted causes them to rethink their significance without their pillars of strength.

Each of their falling actions is is their escape from the altered reality shown to them by the devil in the forest, and to witness if this vision was real or not. Though in “the man in the black suit” Gary was chased through the forest, the devil figured out his faith was too strong to break him down so he went to his last resort which was to try and forcefully consume gary, “He was coming after me, the back of his suit-coat flapping and his thin gold watch-chain flashing and winking in the sun… He reached for me, groping with his talons, and I fled along the top of the bank… but also screaming in grief for my beautiful dead mother.”(59).

Towards the end of “The Man in the Black Suit” Stephen King dedicates the story to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”, literature has allowed for these tributes to different pieces from different time periods to stay relevant. The evolution of our world has changed drastically in the last hundred years, yet literature from three hundred years ago is still talked about and taught to this day. The truth behind this is that the elements used to create this king of stories and thousands of others have stood the test of time century after century. This is proven through “Young Goodman Brown” and “The Man in the Black Suit”, the use of identical elements, like setting and changing objects with similar symbolic significance. These two stories are just one example of how literature has adapted with current times without sacrificing universal elements. 

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Stephen King's novel The Man in the Black Suit. (2021, Nov 29). Retrieved October 5, 2022 , from
https://studydriver.com/stephen-kings-novel-the-man-in-the-black-suit/

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