The Witch

Beyond the Stereotypes

Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Witch” skillfully examines the contrasts of human nature. Jackson uses symbolism and juxtaposition to make the distinction between young and old, wise and naïve more evident. However, she uses these contrasts in order to develop her argument that though people may seem very different, humans are often more similar than they first appear.
In “The Witch” the two main characters, the old man and the young boy are a contrast of males young and old. At a glance, the young boy Johnny seems sweet, naive and innocent sitting in the cart with his loving mother and beloved little sister. He is very kind and sweet towards his sister, for when she cried he left his seat to “pet his sister’s feet and beg her not to cry”. Johnny plays into the stereotypical child by constantly asking frivolous questions like “How far do we have to go?” Johnny is quite immature because when the man asks him simple questions, like how old are you and what’s your name, the boy mischievously answers by saying ““Twenty-six” and “Mr. Jesus”. These attributes help to establish Johnny as the picture of youth. When the old man is introduced in the story he seems to be a complete opposite; experienced, suave and wise. When he talks to Johnny he seems at ease as “he stopped just beside the little boy’s seat, and leaned against the back”.   The level of maturity is evident when the old man starts talking down to Johnny by saying things such as “Hello yourself, son.” The man’s cigar and the boy’s lollipop immediately form another contrast. The image portrayed by a lollipop is sweet, young and naïve, and the image of a cigar is more wise and sinister. When the little boy says “My father smokes cigars,” and the man replies “All men smoke cigars, Someday you’ll smoke a cigar, too.” We see that the man is obviously much more experienced than him, and he seems to have life all figured out, unlike Johnny who is new to the world. The lollipop is a...