It is truly revealing when one can make a comparison of two completely unrelated stories and find a basic meaning and theme that is analogous to both, despite superficial characteristics. Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" is about a religious man, Goodman Brown, who embarks on a journey through a forest on an unidentified quest, while John Barth's "Lost in the Funhouse" is about a teenager, Ambrose, who goes on vacation with his family and ends up becoming lost in a funhouse. Although these two stories initially seem entirely disparate, there is overwhelming evidence that they are connected by the fact that both Goodman Brown and Ambrose initiate a crusade in which each ends with an epiphany.One can begin by examining the effect that each story has upon the reader and his thoughts. "Lost in the Funhouse" is the spasmodic story of a young teenager named Ambrose and his trip to Ocean City, Maryland with his family. He is with his brother Peter, his Uncle Karl, his parents, and a girl he likes, Magda. He thinks of her the whole car ride and how to court her, yet he fails. They arrive and decide to go swimming in the ocean, until they discover an oil spill has closed the beach. They instead go a swimming pool, where Peter and Uncle Karl tease Magda and then go diving off the high board. Ambrose dreams of Magda and becomes erect, which he tries to hide from her. Later, Ambrose excitedly enters the funhouse with his brother and Magda, unaware and naïve of what its true purpose is. Inside, he wants to arouse and relate to Magda, but is hindered by his insecurities and over-contemplation. Peter flirts with her and they run off, with Ambrose left behind and lost in the funhouse.
[...] He did not know she would be a participant, and is unsure whether Faith listened to him or not, losing her soul to the devil or staying pure. The text suggests she did not listen because it says, “Whether Faith obeyed [Goodman Brown] knew (Hawthorne 145). She has become a corrupted individual, just as Magda is in “Lost in the Funhouse.” Magda is corrupted by Peter, because after his “particularly coarse” sexual moves, she makes a “pleas[ing] indignant face and crie[s] right for you, mister!'” (Barth 98). [...]
[...] For example, in “Lost in the Funhouse,” when Ambrose is in the tumbling-room and wants to tell Magda he loves her, the sailor bumps into him ruining everything: Heroically, he drew her up, it was his chance to clutch her close as if for support and say: love you.” He even put an arm lightly about the small of her back before a sailor-and-girl pitched into them from behind, sorely treading his left big toe and knocking Magda sprawl with them (Barth 98) However, he realizes he would not have said it anyway, even if the sailor did not bump into them. [...]
[...] He decides to finally go, racing and flying in a hurry, and he reaches a clearing with a crude altar set up for the ‘saint' and ‘sinners' of Salem. He tells Faith to resist evil when she is called up and finds himself alone immediately, unaware if she listened or not. The next day, he returns to town where everyone seems normal. The reader must decide if this was a dream or a real event in the story. The story encourages the notion that it was a dream because everyone in the town knew he was there and if it was an actual event, then it would not be that the other characters are unchanged. [...]
[...] Likewise, “Young Goodman Brown” is written in a way where several interpretations could take hold, but the story encourages one. The story opens with Goodman Brown about to embark on an evening journey, despite his wife Faith entreating him to delay it. He stresses he needs to complete an unidentified task by sunrise and leaves anyway. He walks into the dark forest, where he spies an old man carrying a serpent staff. The old man tells him to hold it and come for a walk, but Goodman says he should not and thinks about going home. [...]
[...] Both characters, Ambrose and Goodman Brown, are consigned to live in isolation and detachment because of their mental transformations. Ambrose is clearly withdrawn from society as the operator rather than the lover. He examines the way other people work and helps them to achieve what they want, yet he never gets what he wants. He is only a person in the background, ignored by the normal people who are passing through the funhouse enjoying life. Goodman Brown is also isolated because he is a cynical observer of life, unable to accept the inherent characteristics of humanity. [...]
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