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Conformity and Fear in Self-Reliance

Conformity and Fear in Self-Reliance

The quote that most provoked thought and emotion from within

me comes from the essay “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. “To

be great is to be misunderstood” was used by Emerson to explain the

lagging growth of the conception of ideas and thoughts of his

generation. Original and novel ideas were scorned by conservatives

who believed the best method for learning was by repetition and

memorization of proven classics written by previous generations.

The continuing timelessness of his quote is still in effect today

as the scientific community has evolved to accept unaccustomed

theories, yet encounters difficulty when relating to the public new

and extreme ideas that rebut the system.

In history, the results of individualism has been spread world

wide. Important leaders, thinkers, and philosophers with radical

ideas in virgin areas of research were making significant finds

rapidly. Yet progress was slowed by short-sighted men who failed to

see greatness.

Aberham Lincoln was a revolutionary in his time with his views

on slavery and forgiveness of the South. Yet his death was the

result of one man’s refusal to accept what was once a proud and

rich land reduced to tatters- left to ruin because of her failure

to accept civil reform.

Herman Melville’s work in Moby Dick was considered a classic,

yet Melville died a figure with lost prestige, poor and unaccepted.

When he was laid to rest in 1891, he was remembered only as the

author of entertaining novels of the South Seas. It was not until

1920s when his place in America’s foremost writers was assured. His

works are now great masterpieces of emotion that were misunderstood

while he was still alive.

Another important example is democracy. In medieval times,

monarchies and kingdoms ruled the land. Today, the monarch is

merely a figurehead behind the power of democracy. At the birth of

the democratic rise of the United States of America, the colonists

were thought of as upstart fools- dreamers believing the

impossible. English royalists were aghast at the indignation of the

colonies to separate from England and form their own country. In

present day, the United States is the sole world power, a great

Structure of Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown

Structure of “Young Goodman Brown”

“Almost all literary theorists since Aristotle have emphasized the importance of structure, conceived in diverse ways, in analyzing a work of literature” (Abrams 300). This essay will explore some interesting points in the structure of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” considering the time-frame, foreshadowing, suspenseful incidents, climax and denouement (Axelrod 337).

The narrative in this tale is straightforward until the narrator, late in the story, asks the reader: “Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest, and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting?” This query gives the reader the option of believing that the story is mostly a dream. The tale encompasses a period of time from sunset, when the young Puritan Goodman Brown leaves his wife in the doorway of their home, till the next morning when he returns to Salem village after spending the night in the woods.

As Brown leaves the house at the beginning of the story, his wife Faith foreshadows coming events with her reference to dreams:

“Dearest heart,” whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, “pr’ythee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in your own bed tonight. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts, that she’s afeard of herself, sometimes. Pray, tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year!”

Faith’s use of dreams as an excuse for her husband to stay home on this particular evening is anticipatory of Goodman’s experience in the woods, which turns out to be possibly a dream; in other words, the bulk of the narrative could be only a dream. The devil, furthermore, introduces the …

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…ith Goodman until his dying day: “And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave, a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an aged woman, and children and grandchildren, a goodly procession, besides neighbors, not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom.”

In this essay we have seen some interesting points in the structure of “Young Goodman Brown,” including the time-frame, the use of foreshadowing, suspenseful incidents, climax and denouement.


Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

Axelrod, Rise B. The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing, 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” 1835.

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