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Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown – The Theme

“Young Goodman Brown” – the Theme

Clarice Swisher in “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography” states: ”When Hawthorne called his stories ‘romances,’ he meant that they belong within the romantic movement that . . . . emphasize imagination and personal freedom” (18). It is the purpose of this essay to interpret the theme of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and determine where this “personal freedom” leads.

Edmund Fuller and B. Jo Kinnick in “Stories Derived from New England Living” state: “’Young Goodman Brown’ uses the background of witchcraft to explore uncertainties of belief that trouble a man’s heart and mind” (31). It is on that one night of the year when witches have their coven in the deepest woods that the young husbandman, Goodman Brown, takes leave of his wife, Faith: “YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN came forth at sunset, into the street of Salem village, but put his head back, after crossing the threshold, to exchange a parting kiss with his young wife.” The reader receives a premonition of the impending evil intrigue with Faith’s staement of her foreboding, troublesome 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!”

Regarding the theme, the clues increase when Goodman, having left his wife, Faith, all alone and melancholy, enters the woods and encounters a sinister type with whom he has previously made an appointment for this particular evening:

As nearly as could be discerned, the second traveller . . . had an indescribable air of one who knew the world, and would not have felt abashed at the governor’s dinner-table, or in King William’s court, were it possible that his affairs should call him thither. But the only thing about him, that could be fixed upon as remarkable, was his staff, 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. This, of course, must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the uncertain light.

The evil nature of this individual is made manifest, and thus evil enters the story in a significant way.

The Child by Tiger – Dick’s Character

The Child by Tiger – Dick’s Character

In “The Child by Tiger”, Wolfe does a superb job of making the story reveal a truth about human experience. Dick’s killing rampage in the short story showed how the human sole has a tendency to become violent. Characterization and excellent choice of tone and mood used in the story display how the Dick becomes violent.

Wolfe carefully develops Dick’s character in the short story. At the beginning of the short story, Wolfe describes Dick’s actions precisely. Wolfe illustrates anything from Dick’s movements to his talk. Furthermore, Dick is depicted as an honest hard working and notably talented individual. Wolfe does all of this for a simple reason, to show that any human sole can turn evil, no matter how intelligent, honest, or hard working. For this reason, Wolfe’s characterization of Dick is essential to the short story. Without a good characterization of Dick before his sole turns violent, the story would have no meaning and would just be about a mad man. However, with Wolfe’s exquisite characterization, the reader find outs how an innocent god fearing man can turn violent. Overall, Wolfe’s characterization is key to the short stories meaning.

Outstanding tone and mood choice also help show the truth about the weak human sole. First, the Wolfe’s informal tone of the story is significant. I believe Wolfe’s tone help set up the readers for the shock of what Dick does. However, the tone the author sets is important because of the shock we get, we also see how fragile the human sole is and how it can easily change. In this case, the author’s informal and almost ironic tone surprise the reader but also help show the significance of Dick’s experience. Second, the author’s mood for the story is quiet deceiving. Since the plot of the story is to show how any human sole can turn evil, the author sets an ironic mood. Though the mood is informal, the irony of the situation is of a “good” mad turning “evil”. Wolfe sets up this mood by his description and analysis of Dick’s character and actions at the beginning of the story. The mood is ironic because when the violent side of Dick comes out, our mood towards the story changes because we are shocked at what has happened to innocent Dick.

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