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Good and Evil in Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown

Good and Evil in Young Goodman Brown

In “Young Goodman Brown.” Nathaniel Hawthorne considers the question of good and evil, suggesting that true evil is judging and condemning others for sin without looking at one’s own sinfulness. He examines the idea that sin is part of being human and there is no escape from it.

Of the many symbols he uses in this story, each has a profound meaning. They represent good and evil in the constant struggle of a young innocent man whose faith is being tested. As the story begins, Young Goodman Brown bids farewell to his young wife “Faith, as [she] was aptly named” (211). When she ” …thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap” we associate the purity of “Faith” and the “pink ribbons” as a sign of the innocence and goodness of the town he is leaving behind (211). As he continues “on his present evil purpose” he sets off at sunset to enter the forest (212). A place “darkened by all the gloomiest trees,” unknown territory, and a place where “there may be a devilish Indian behind every tree,” with this we know the forest represents evil and sinfulness (212).

His decision to enter the forest and leave his “Faith” behind is the first decision, of many, between good and evil that he must make. After entering the forest he meets a traveler whom he later finds out is the devil. He is carrying a staff representing evil, “which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought, that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself, like a living serpent” (213). When the traveler offers his staff to Young Goodman Brown he resists by replying, “having kept covenant by meeting thee here, it is my purpose to return whence I cam…

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…the forest ultimately causes him to believe that he is better than everyone else and he disassociate himself from all those in the town as he judges them as being sinners. He becomes “a stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man…” after his journey when he commits the ultimate sin of judging and condemning others without looking at one’s own sinfulness. In the end “they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom (221).

Works Cited and Consulted

Benoit, Raymond. “‘Young Goodman Brown’: The Second Time Around.” The Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 19 (Spring 1993): 18-21.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Complete Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc.,1989.

Wagenknecht, Edward. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Man, His Tales and Romances. New York: Continuum Publishing Co., 1989.

Free Essay on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65

Here’s Shakespeare’s sonnet no. 65. I’m going to (a) space it out and (b) add in a running commentary that might be helpful to suggest the kinds of reactions one might have in reading it. Let me know if this helps.

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea

“nor”=”and not”. A list . . . a slowly paced list. Of what sorts of things? what scope? what do they have in common?. . . Sentence is just beginning . . .

But sad mortality o’er-sways their power,

Ah . . . none of them last. And yet they sure seem strong and long-lasting. Is it true what he says? And anyway, so what? why mention this? Sentence not yet reached its main clause . . .

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,

Aha: here’s the point: the sad pathetic vulnerability of “beauty”. Very general though. Does he mean any particular beauty? “Hold a plea” is nice: a sort of legal image, no?

Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

Beauty doesn’t have much going for it to oppose time. “Action” seems to continue the legal metaphor. The image gets more particular–“a flower”–though it’s still relatively general. We’re most conscious of the tone of the lamenting speaker, less so of any particular things he’s naming. . . Poor pathetic beauty . . . Sentence has ended.

Oh, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
Against the wreckful siege of battering days,

Fresh start: new sentence. Saying it again, more intensely. It’s getting better, more specific. Lovely fresh sensuous appeal in “honey breath”. Summer is a sweet-smelling person, a beloved presumably (you’d hardly enjoy smelling the sweet breath of anyone else). Its breath can hardly “hold out”: wonder what that means? Last long enough? A singer sustaining a long note or phrase needs breath that will “hold out.” And to “hold out against a siege” means to withstand a siege: so now the summer has turned into a besieged fortress or city. And the besieging enemy is using battering rams, and trying to wreck everything. Imagery: note that we’re not totally visualizing summer as a person; it’s a delicate suggestion that glides into the next image, that of the besieged town. And we don’t visualize summer as a town, either. In fact “visualize” is too crude a term for what imagery this subtle does.

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