In his short story “Ethan Brand,” Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the symbolic action of the suicide to represent redemption, and also to help establish his character in the story. For us to completely understand the suicide, we have to understand what the Unpardonable Sin was and what it meant to Ethan Brand. The Unpardonable Sin can be interpreted in many different ways. First of all, his experimentation on others clearly represents how cold and uncaring he has become in his search for the Unpardonable Sin. He values his intellect over his compassion for others and completely cuts himself off from the rest of the world to search for this sin. Finally, the sin he is searching for lies in his very own heart. The quest for the sin becomes the means to its own end; the knowledge of it becomes the sin itself.
Ethan Brand’s suicide means two very important things in the story. When he returns to Graylock, he finally comes to an understanding the the ...view middle of the document...
By saying before he commits suicide, “O Mother Earth, who art no more my Mother, and into whose bosom this frame shall never be resolved! O mankind, whose brotherhood I have cast off, and trampled thy great heart beneath my feet! O starts of heaven, that shone on me of old, as if to light me onward and upward!—farewell all, and forever” (330). Ethan Brand has recognized that he has gained a major intellectual discovery, but at the great cost of losing human relationships and strength of heart. By his heart turning stone from years of self-isolation can now be used by Bartram for his use.
Ethan Brand begins the story as a very upright and social man, who hopes that all sins can be forgiven. However, after his quest he becomes sinful and a fiend. After spending many days pondering the question of what the Unpardonable Sin is, he begins to manipulate other people into committing all types of sin as well as certain people such as, “That daughter, from whom he so earnestly desired a word of greeting, was the Esther of our tale the very girl who, with such cold and remorseless purpose, Ethan Brand had made the subject of a physiological experiment, and wasted, absorbed, and perhaps annihilated her soul, in the process” (325). Furthermore, when he returns from from his journey, he begins to look down on all the townspeople and regard them as. “… ye brute beasts, that have made yourselves so, shriveling up your souls with fiery liquors! I have done with you. Years and years ago, I groped into your hearts, and found nothing there for my purpose. Get ye gone!” (324). These men, who used to be his friends, had only come to welcome him but instead he had scorned them. His lengthy search for the Unpardonable Sin had made Ethan Brand do many terrible things, and also change into a completely horrific person. Instead of being a compassionate and loving person, he has become, “… a purple-visaged, rude, and brutal, yet half-gentlemanly figure, with something wild, ruined, and desperate in his talk, and in all the details of his gesture and manners” (324).
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown and Other Tales. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.