Going to Meet the Man vs Counterparts: Compare & Contrast

Going to Meet the Man vs Counterparts: Compare & Contrast
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Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin, Counterparts by James Joyce, and The Metamorphosis by Franz Karaka share several similarities.  The first similarity is the futility of life the characters feel like there is no way out for them.  Secondly, the means of escape that both fathers used in the stories are alike.  Lastly, the violent relationship between father and son in both stories is comparable. These connections show that different cultures, Harlem and Ireland, face the same dynamics.

In Going to Meet the Man, the son, John feels trapped by his stepfather’s rage; whereas in the Counterpart, the father, Farrington’s, the viewpoint of futility is shown.  The Metamorphosis places the protagonist, Gregor, in a truly pointless life by changing him into a dung beetle overnight.  John’s stepfather, Gabriel, is frustrated because he is an African American male living in Harlem during the early 20th century.  Farrington is trapped in a dead-end job that does not play well with the responsibility of five children and a wife.  Gregor is limited to only one room, where he had to get used to his new appendages.  These men cannot see a realistic way out of their lifestyles.

Farrington, Gabriel, and Gregor find ways to lessen the pain of their lives.  Farrington lives to drink, even going out during the workday for a pint.  Farrington even pawns his watch to drink.  When drunk, Farrington becomes fuzzy, forgetting about his life.  If he is drunk, he can even dream of having women other than his wife.  Gabriel’s refuge is religion.  If things cannot be right or good in this life, then in the afterlife everything will be perfect.  Whites and bad black people will be judged after death.  Fanatical Christianity comforts Gabriel.  Gregor takes comfort in sleep and any contact with his family.  These getaways to ease reality helped each of these men.

Lastly, both Farrington and Gabriel find satisfaction in tormenting their sons.  If Farrington and Gabriel would have withheld their anger, it would have boiled over on the wrong person; such as a wife, co-worker, or boss.  By taking anger out on their children, both men used this abuse as a safety valve for their violent rages.  Gregor was on the receiving end of his father’s wrath.  When violence occurs at home, behind closed doors, no immediate consequences for the abuser occur.  In the early 20th consequences from the mother or government occurred rarely.  The only repercussion would be a child growing to adulthood resenting their abuser.  The alienation of their children would have been Farrington and Gabriel’s punishment.  Gregor was definitely alienated from his father. 

These stories show that no matter what culture, human problems are universal.  Black or white, poverty dictates a person’s options.  To escape from the reality of the situation, even by diverse means, is human nature.  Humans have been escaping their daily lives with entertainment, booze, religion, metamorphosing into a dung beetle, and other means since the beginning.  Child abuse also permeates every race, religion, and culture.  All of these issues are human problems, not just black or white problem. 

Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin,  Counterparts by James Joyce, and The Metamorphosis by Franz Karaka deal with powerful issues; futility, escapism, and child abuse in a real way.  These stories represent the early 20th century.  Humanity is shown through both stories, good and mostly bad.  All three of the fathers react correspondingly toward their families, co-workers, and friends, despite being of a different culture and race.

References:

Baldwin, James.  Going to Meet the Man.  London:  Penguin Classics, 1991. 

Joyce, James.  “Counterparts.”  Dubliners.  New York:  Bantam Classics, 1990.

Karaka, Franz.  The Metamorphosis.  2003.  Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC, Canada.  08 Aug. 2006