Romanticism and “Young Goodman Brown”
Romanticism was a literary movement that occurred in the late eighteenth century to the mid nineteenth century which shifted the focus of literature from puritan works, to works which revolved around imagination, the beauty of nature, the individual, and the value of emotion over intellect. The ideas of the movement were quite revolutionary as earlier literature was inhibited by the need to focus on society and the rational world it effected. Romanticism allowed writers to be more creative with there stories and to explore an irrational world which before, would have been at the very least frowned upon if not outright rejected. The short story, “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is an example of a romantic work because it showcases the individual over society, exalts emotion and intuition over reason, and keeps a strong focus on nature throughout the story.
A romantic work focuses on the individual and his inner struggles as well as his external conflict. “Young Goodman Brown” accomplished this through the title character whose journey is followed over the course of the story. Though Young Goodman Brown meets many others on his trip, the focus never wavers from him and his internal struggle. For instance, when Goodman Brown witnesses the minister and deacon riding into the wilderness, the story immediately cuts to his reaction to them, “Young Goodman Brown caught hold of a tree for support, being ready to sink down on the ground, faint and overburdened with the heavy sickness of his heart” (pg 6). Every person who passes by him illustrates another individual leaving the confines of society just as Goodman Brown does, but he still has such a vehement reaction to them although he is journeying through the same wilderness as they. His reaction to their passing is also an example of another romantic trait, prizing the emotional over the intellectual.
Another staple of romantic works is the value of intuition, and the emotion side of a conflict to the rational explanation for it. Goodman Brown is confronted throughout the story with situations where he gives a strong, immediate reaction without possible having time to weigh the rational options. A strong example of a rash conclusion occurs when Goodman Brown beholds a pink ribbon caught on the branch of a tree. Because his wife wears pink ribbons, this confirms to him that his wife was in the...