Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne analysis

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The Traditional Approach

1.) Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem Massachusetts in 1804. Hawthorn was also a descendant of Puritan ancestors, one of which being a judge responsible for the Salem witch trials. Therefore the combination of Hawthorn’s family history and the given history of his birthplace, helped influences his choice for maintaining a Puritan New England type setting for much of his literary works.

.) King William

“And yet, though the elder person was as simply clad as the younger, and as simple in manner too, he had an indescribable air of one who knew the world, and would not have felt abashed at the governors dinner-table, or in King Williams court, were it possible that his affairs should call him thither.”(Paragraph 1,Hawthorne)

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Within Hawthorne’s work, he has made reference to King William. King William was a distinguished respectable man, hence by Comparing Goodman Brown to him suggests that he is also a man of great honour. Likewise, King William became king of England in 1685, after the invasion of Parliament causing James II to run to France. William was a strong rival of the French and their expansion. Under William’s jurisdiction the transition occurred from personal government of the House of Stuart to the parliamentary rule of the house of Hanover.

King Philips War

“And it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philips war.” (Paragraph 17, Hawthorne)

King Philips War was another historical event that the author Hawthorne had made reference to in the duration of his short story. By referring to the killing of the natives, suggests discrimination and hatred towards the group. Thus, Hawthorne was conveying the evil that the Puritans are capable of. King Philips War occurred during 1675-1676. As colonists continued to immigrate to New England, the more and more persistent they were on colonizing the Natives and instituting them under colonial control. The Natives did want to give up their freedom and surrender to the English; this then resulted in conflict, which contributed to King Philips War.

The Quakers

“I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem.”(Paragraph 17, Hawthorne)

The reference to the Quakers is an additional example of the historical figures incorporated by Hawthorne into his work. Hawthorne refers to the Quakers by recalling the brutal punishment giving to a Quaker woman for her differences in comparison to the puritans. Thus, Hawthorne is conveying the evil origins in persecuting others for their beliefs. Furthermore, The Quakers were first introduced in the mid- seventeenth century. George Fox is known as the founder of the Quakers otherwise known as the Society of Friends. Fox traveled all over England to talked to priests, religious scalars and others seeking religious significance.

.) Puritanism in America was started by a group of Puritan separatists who fled from England in 1608 and eventually landing on the shores of America in160 establishing there own settlements. The puritans were extremists Calvinistic Protestants, and they believed that the universe was centered on God. They believed that it was every person’s duty to best understand God, the Bible and the universe created by the Lord. Therefore religion was taken very seriously and church was attended on a regular basis. Furthermore, typically the women were responsible for maintaining a tidy household and caring for the children as the men would work out in the fields. Young boys would attend school or help their fathers while young girls were to stay home with their mothers to acquire about maintaining a household. Dancing was forbidden along with any other acts concerning free spirited behavior. If one was caught engaging in such an act or any abnormal behavior, they could be easily accused of witchcraft , were usually punished and were possibly put on trail. Therefore the life of a Puritan was very strict and rigid, limiting them to living a life of freedom.

Within the story “Young Goodman Brown” Hawthorne used many example of Satires to express his true feelings towards regarded topics. For example, when Goodman Brown is speaking to the older man he says,

I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem. And it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philips war. (Paragraph 17, Hawthorne)

Hawthorne is allowing the evil of the puritans to be revealed. The evil is shown through prosecuting others such as the Quakers and the Natives for their ethical and religious differences. The puritans believe that they are truly good and religious, but really by committing such immoral acts, such as killing suggest that they are corrupt. Moving along, a satire is also evident by Hawthorne’s choice of using maple as the primary wood for the walking stick. “As they went, he plucked a branch of maple to serve for a walking stick...”(paragraph 7, Hawthorne) Maple is a wood that tends to decay from the inside out. Therefore it may appear fine and healthy from the outside, but really it is lifeless and rotting within. The maple stick serves as a symbol for the average Puritan person. This suggests that a puritan seems smart content and rational to most, however their inner person that is not so revealed, is truly evil and dishonest. Hawthorne is therefore expressing his belief that evil lives within mankind. Similarly, Hawthorne makes another reference to evil residing in society. To illustrate,

The road grew wilder and drearier, and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward, with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil. (Paragraph 50, Hawthorne.)

Within this statement the author is suggesting that all man are born with a basic instinct leading humans to evil. Hawthorne is saying that if we are to let down our guard we may be lead by the evil that is contained within us. Therefore, no matter how hard people such as the puritans try to be righteous and pure, there will always be a force within them driving them to take the evil path.

Textual- Linguistic Approach


“What, my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou doubt me already”(Paragraph , Hawthorne)

dost- A second person singular present tense of do. Therefore to perform or execute.

“Amen!” cried Goodman Brown. “Say thy prayers, dear Faith, and go to bed at dusk....”(Paragraph 5, Hawthorne)

Thy- Used to indicate the one being addressed. (In this case meaning “your”)

“ ‘The clock of the Old South was striking as I came through Boston; and that is full fifteen minutes agone.’ ” (Paragraph 10, Hawthorne)

Agone � Gone in the past.

“ is my purpose now to return whence I came.”(Paragraph 14, Hawthorne)

Wence- From where; from what place.

“...conscious of the guilty purpose that had brought him thither, though now so happily turned from it...”(Paragraph 40 , Hawthorne)

Thither- To or toward that place; in that direction.

“ ‘A grave and dark-clad company!’ quoth Goodman Brown” (Paragraph 54, Hawthorne)

Qouth- To utter or to say.

“ ‘What God doth the wizard pray to?’ ”

doth- third person present tense of do. Therefore to perform or to execute

Moral � Philosophical Approach


The moral �philosophical approach appears to be the most effective approach to understanding the story because it communicates morals and appears to try to teach a lesson to the readers. The story suggests that not all things are indeed as they appear to be in essence. Didacticism is a very significant element to the story and is communicated very well by attempting to teach and moralize a point to the readers. Within Hawthorne’s story, evil is what transforms a once happy loving man to a self-doubting, faithless individual. Those that Brown would least suspect to be involved in any wrongdoing were the individuals that exposed Young Goodman Brown to sin. By Goodman Brown being exposed to sin by those who he respected so greatly causes him to lose faith in God. Therefore by abandoning God, one tends to live a more sinful life and therefore is more swayed to follow the path of evil. To Goodman Brown, evil was hidden where he least likely suspected it to be. Therefore not everything that appears good is truly pure in basic nature, for it may be anyone or anything that harbors the evil that we mostly fear.

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