The Gaggingly Sweet Individual - A practice in stereotyping a goody two shoes.

Essay by jonocketCollege, UndergraduateB-, April 2007

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We all remember high school. Whether it was one or four years ago that we graduated, we all have memories of our former high school in our minds. The sweaty locker rooms, the locker filled hallways, and our favorite teachers were all part of the experience. Among the fond, and not-so-fond memories we have, remains the imprint in our minds of the different aspects of life we saw every day. One of the many aspects of life we clearly saw was the differing styles and trends of individuals. The diversity of these various styles was extreme and revealed each individual’s lifestyle.

Stereotyping is generally frowned up on in today’s culture yet we’re all blameworthy of such a practice. Everyone in High School had a click they hung out with. Everyone could be categorized. There were Goths, wearing all black clothes with complimentary makeup and listening to grunge or heavy metal.

Another stereotype was the pessimistic Emo kid who walked around in his “girl pants” screaming out lyrics to his favorite raspy voiced Indie band. Then there were the people we all detested; we call them the "goody two-shoes." You know who they are. As soon as it was mentioned someone specific popped into your head and the gears started turning. You thought of that gaggingly sweet and ceaselessly bright person that arrives always highly polished and full of spunk. They give the impression that they are continuously motivated to take the morally correct course of action. Most of the time a goody two-shoes’ behavior is so textbook perfect that we find it nauseating, because there is generally some implication that it is also insincere; that is, their public manners and conduct do not reveal their true nature. The meaning of the nickname today carries a negative connotation and indicates a person who is such a pain that sometimes we just want to wring our hands around their scrawny neck to strangle them.

The name goody two-shoes comes from a nursery tale book written in 1765 commonly known as The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes. Written in England by Oliver Goldsmith, the attention-grabbing piece of literature made its way to the New World as part of an attempt to keep the colonies civilized and up to par with the standards of English society. The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes was an illustration of the Christian philosophy that the diligent reap their reward in Heaven.

The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes starts out about a poor orphan named Margery Meanwell who can only afford one shoe. She is described as joyful, intelligent, strong-minded, pleasant, and exemplifies the Christian virtue of forgiveness. After some time of living alone she is adopted by a family named the Smiths who provide her with a complete pair of shoes thus she acquires the familiar nickname “goody two-shoes”. Unfortunately, the Smiths are subject tenants to the same evilly greedy man that forced Margery’s family into a place of destitution which ultimately lead to their death. For the second time in Margery’s life she is forced out of her home and away from her family by the same man. Eventually after much hard work and determination to live virtuously Margery finds and marries a wealthy widower. After her marriage Margery is continued to be called goody two-shoes.

No one wants to be labeled a “goody two-shoes” because it is usually a label given to someone who is overly moralistic and conceited. However, many years ago American colonists and English countrymen thought of the term “goody two-shoes” as compliment. It was only around the turn of the 20th century that the title became an unpleasant label. People who were thought to be arrogantly or smugly virtuous were designated as “goody-goodies”. There are only a few instances of people being called 'goody-goody' from 1896 onwards. For example in July 1911 there was an article in the Wisconsin newspaper The Racine Daily Journal. The article was titled A Goody-Goody and states the following:"Philadelphia Press: Senator Lorimer according to his friends, is such a paragon of innocence and true goodness that what seems to be needed is a place where he can retire, safe from the world - and the world safe from him."After some time the two nicknames became interchangeable and were given the same meaning. The nick name “goody two-shoes” no longer held the same flattering implication; it was considered a critical remark.

Goody two-shoes was a hard-working and honorable woman who experienced much hardship but was eventually rewarded for her goodness. The people we label as goody two-shoes in the present day are the complete opposite of Margery. They appear to have the same Christian attributes and personality traits, but we are constantly suspicious that they are mischievous and deceiving behind our backs. Therefore they are detested and disliked. As they walk around with charming personalities we frequently wish for them to stumble, yet they always have up an inscrutable defense of happy smiles. Naturally, a shining example with such a righteous temperament is also the type of person we'd like to see get their comeuppance, which is where the critical aspects associated with the character come from. The nickname as it exists today denote a person who is something of a pain, and so society looks down on anyone labeled a goody two-shoes because they know that the gaggingly sweet individual never reveals their true nature.