Susanna at the Beach, by Herbert Gold, presents a tale of the virtues characters admire strictly contrasting with the vices for which characters are consumed. The characterization of the main character, Susanna, is portrayed as embodying seven “heavenly virtues” including chastity, temperance, diligence, patience, kindness, humility, and charity. While the other characters in the story personify the seven “deadly sins” including lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy, pride, and greed. Herbert Gold depicts a theme of virtues versus vices utilizing the literary device of characterization in Susanna at the Beach as supported by the character depiction from the biblical reference of Daniel and Susanna.
The two main characters depict the characteristics of chastity; they are pure, innocent and sustain the ability to refrain from being distracted and influenced by hostility, temptation, or even corruption. The readers are immediately introduced to Susanna, in the tale of Susanna at the Beach, as a captivating young girl, intoxicating her spectators with her beauty and vulnerability; just as Susanna had with the judges of Daniel and Susanna. Gold describes Susanna, “She had fled all the billboard schemes of the life of a pretty girl. Lips soft and half-parted for a grand design rather than a Lucky Strike, hands taking the measure of ambition rather than the bottle of a Coca-Cola, she has come to perfect her diving in a worn black cotton bathing suit which was already too small after her summer’s growth” (Gold, 643.) Gold is characterizing her as a young woman who surpasses the beauty of a media-driven image and foreshadows a simplistic wholesomeness that defines chastity. As the reader continues, Susanna is clearly a character unaware of the spotlight cast upon her by her viewers in celebration of her beauty; and is instead laden, alone, with her own sufficiencies in perfecting her skill.
In contrast the men standing in the crowd admiring Susanna portray the sin of lust. They are characterized in the story as having an emotional force that is directly associated with the thinking or fantasizing about one’s desire. These men are longing for the glimpse of her flesh. “The one fat man idly floated beside a friend in the water, lolling on his back, spitting, his great trunk rolling the pleasure of himself. He liked to watch the girl while taking his pleasure” (Gold, 643.) While the main character symbolizes chastity, these men are phallic in Gold’s descriptions. This man succumbs to the lustful temptations of Susanna’s blissful ignorance in her taut swimsuit that becomes increasingly revealing. This contrast of virtues versus sins plays consistently throughout this short story.
A consistent characteristic that Susanna maintains throughout this short story is her ambition for perfection with diligence and temperance. Susanna is temperate by displaying self-control, as she does not give up on her desire to complete the ideal dive; and in...