“Good People:” Religious Belonging, Coming of Age, and Imagery

“Good People:” Religious Belonging, Coming of Age, and Imagery

David Foster Wallace utilizes his short essay, “Good People,” to depict how individuals receive and respond to unexpected problems, including the role played by emergencies in shaping their thoughts. Wallace starts the story by presenting the reader with a picture of Lane Dean, the protagonist, and Sheri, his girlfriend, seated without any forms of movement. From this scene, the curious reader can tell that something wrong or troubling has just happened to the two lovers. The author reveals the event as Sheri’s unexpected pregnancy, with both realizing that they are not prepared to take care of the forthcoming child (Wallace par. 1). Besides their unpreparedness, abortion is out of the equation because of they are staunch Christians. Additionally, if the undertake the procedure, Dean understands that Sheri, whom he cares so much for, would have far-reaching on their conscience. Although Wallace utilizes ‘Good People” to narrate obvious encounters in life, the author depicts the themes of maturity and the conflict between faith and being good.

The story of Dean and Sheri is a clear manifestation of the struggle between bypassing one’s faith to engage in activity that would bring long-term satisfaction regardless of the outcome. Sheri’s pregnancy has created in a dilemma in their lives as they are split between observing Christian doctrines to the letter, including the stance on abortion, and doing the procedure to relieve themselves of the impending struggle of raising a kid (Wallace par. 2). By emphasizing the Christian life of both characters, Wallace shows that a person can make tireless attempts to become good or attain the status of good people without necessarily referring to their religion or focusing on religious belonging. In essence, while the author does not reject religion, he suggests that sometimes the widely adopted religious values tend to enter into conflict with a person’s good intensions. Ultimately, the story seeks to provide insight into a need for understanding that mistakes form a critical aspect of human life because they can make an individual better.

The theme of coming age manifests in the essay when the Dean’s and Sheri’s characters undergo significant changes and growth. In particular, the beginning of the story depicts scared young people. Dean and Sheri were uncertain and confused about what the harsh future holds for them, wondering whether or not their love was strong enough to navigate the difficult times (Wallace par. 1).  Over time, they identify their potential, especially a need to support one another. This is evident when Dean reassures Sheri that “he’d go with her and be there for her” (Wallace par. 2). In essence, they recognized the importance of balancing their religious beliefs and ability to make informed decisions without any forms of outside influences. As a result, the brief story ends with massive growth in the characters’ thoughts, love, and understanding.

Work Cited

Wallace, David. “Good People.” The New Yorker, 05 February, 2007.  www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/02/05/good-people (Accessed 28 November, 2020)

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