Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay

1600 words - 6 pages

December 21, 2000

        Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist from the nineteenth century, who was very concerned with the sins and morals of human beings. He was born in July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts and came from puritan descendents that emigrated from England. He lived during the "Second Awakening", which was an era of religious rebirth. During this period of time, the people began having "revival meetings" and "religious activities". Congregationalists, which were early churches based on Puritan beliefs, established themselves with intentions to dominate for years to come. Hawthorne was opposed to this religious fever. He believed puritan colonists were hypocritical. In the story called "Young Goodman Brown", Hawthorne attacks and mocks the rising era of religious eagerness occurring during the time he lived. (Moss 423-425)

        Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" is a story about a puritan man who loses his faith on human society after he thinks he sees his wife and the most pious affiliates from his town joining in a meeting with evil spirits. (Wilson) This sudden realization leaves Brown terrified and doubtful. Jac Tharpe writes in his book called Nathaniel Hawthorne: Identity and Knowledge, "Man is indeed appalled by self awareness and by self- knowledge." He is trying to say that a person is frightened when he becomes conscious of what is really going on in his surroundings. Brown is blinded by his faith, a faith that he depends on. When he decides to go on his one night journey, he leaves his faith, his blindfold, behind and comes to an understanding that faith has been cheating him all along. He blames everyone else for letting him be ignorant and naïve. Jac Tharpe believes that Hawthorne went through the same realization. His descendents are supposedly Puritans, so why did they kill all those people accusing them of heresy? Because they are phony and that is what he is trying to prove through his stories. (Moss)

         "Young Goodman Brown" is known for being one of literature's most accurate portrayals of the Seventeenth Century puritan society. The story relates to the mass hysteria surrounding that century and the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. John Hathorne, Nathaniel's great grandfather, was one of the judges for the Trials. The fact that Nathaniel was born into the guilt still left from the Trials gave Nathaniel an interest in the puritan era. It interested him how the lives of the people accused of heresy depended on other people who claimed to see them committing sin. (Moss) All the characters from the story had a symbolic meaning to the Seventeenth Century. Goody Cloyse is really Sara Cloyse, a witch who was convicted. Goody Corey was really Martha Corey, another witch who was hanged. Martha Carrier was Martha Carrier, also a witch who was hanged. Deacon Gookin represented Daniel Gookin, the superintendent of the Indians. Brown's grandfather...

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