The Devil in Disguise “Even before he reached me, I recognized the aroma baking up from the skin under the suit–the smell of burned matches. The smell of sulfur. The man in the black suit was the Devil. ” (King) A common theme among depictions of The Devil is that of unusual physical attributes. The Devil is depicted in three different stories (Joyce Carol Oates’ ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? ’, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’, and Steven King’s ‘The Man In The Black Suit’) in three different ways, yet each description bares remarkable similarities in some aspects to the next.
Themes common to the devil are that of his physical appearance or how he presents himself, his apparent supernatural powers or attributes, and his victimology. In ‘The Man in the Black Suit’ the most striking thing, at first glance, about the man is that his eyes were “an orange that shifted and flickered. ” (King). He is dressed in an all black suit, a solemn, dark, ominous color, and he was pale. He smelled like sulfur. Similarly, the Devil figure in ‘Young Goodman Brown’ appears to Goodman Brown as a traveler, “dressed in grave and decent attire. (Hawthorne) Note the connotation of the word grave (solemn). Adversely, in ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? ’ (Oates) the devil takes the shape of Arnold Friend, a typical, or so it seems, teenage boy. The supernatural attributes of the devil vary, for the most part, from story to story. In the ‘Man in the Black Suit’ he can kill by clapping his hands, and his very shadow causes “the grass beneath it to turn yellow and die. (King) The Devil in ’Young Goodman Brown’ has a magical staff, “which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought, that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent. ” (Hawthorne) However there is one supernatural ability that holds universal for all three stories. In each the devil figure has a certain omniscient air. “And yet, though the elder person was as simply clad as the younger, and as simple in manner too, he had an indescribable air of one who knew the world, and would not have felt abashed at the governor’s dinner-table, or in King William’s court… (Hawthorne) “’But I know what it is. I know your name and all about you, lots of things,” Arnold Friend said. He had not moved yet but stood still leaning back against the side of his jalopy. “I took a special interest in you, such a pretty girl, and found out all about you—like I know your parents and sister are gone somewheres and I know where and how long they’re going to be gone, and I know who you were with last night, and your best girl friend’s name is Betty. Right? ” (Oates) This quote shows that he knows everything about Connie. In ‘The Man in the Black Suit’ The Devil knows all about Gary and his family. He knows how Gary’s brother died. He knows why he died. Another thing that is universal in these depictions is the Devil’s victimology. In each story, his victim is young, naive, and inexperienced. Gary is only nine years old. A nine-year-old is very gullible and easy to take advantage of. Young Goodman Brown is also naive at least in his belief that all men and women are what they appear to be.
Connie is a young, inexperienced, teenage girl. The devil can appear in any shape or form. He has been personified throughout history in literary works such as in Joyce Carol Oates’ ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? ’, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’, and Steven King’s ‘The Man In The Black Suit’. In each he has been portrayed differently, yet similarly in several key points: his appearance, his supernatural abilities, and his victimology.