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Realism vs. Romanticism in Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic tale “Young Goodman Brown” is a good example of a short story embodying both characteristics of realism and characteristics of romanticism.

M. H. Abrams defines romantic themes in prominent writers of this school in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as being five in number: (1) innovations in the materials, forms and style; (2) that the work involve a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”; (3) that external nature be a persistent subject with a “sensuous nuance” and accuracy in its description; (4) that the reader be invited to identify the protagonist with the author himself; and (5) that this be an age of “new beginnings and high possibilities” for the person (177-79).

Let us examine “Young Goodman Brown” in light of the above. First of all, Hawthorne was a real innovator in his use of the psychological approach to characters within a story. A. N. Kaul considers Hawthorne “preeminently a ‘psychological’” writer – “burrowing, to his utmost ability, into the depths of our common nature, for the purposes of psychological romance. . . .” (2). Q. D. Leavis says: “Hawthorne has imaginatively recreated for the reader that Calvinist sense of sin. . . . But in Hawthorne, by a wonderful feat of transmutation, it has no religious significance, it is as a psychological state that it is explored” (37). The reader experiences most of the story through the eyes and feelings of the protagonist, Goodman. In the following passage the reader is allowed, as is typical, to read his thoughts:

“Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I, to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought, as she spoke, there was troubl…

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… Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.

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

James, Henry. Hawthorne.

Kaul, A.N. “Introduction.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

Leavis, Q.D. “Hawthorne as Poet.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” The Norton Anthology: American Literature, edited by Baym et al. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1995.

Swisher, Clarice. “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.

Free Essay on the Grangerfords’ World in Huckleberry Finn

Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – The Grangerfords’ World

Huckleberry Finn provides the narrative voice of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and his honest voice combined with his personal vulnerabilities reveal the different levels of the Grangerfords’ world.

Huck is without a family: neither the drunken attention of Pap nor the pious ministrations of Widow Douglas were desirable allegiance. He stumbles upon the Grangerfords in darkness, lost from Jim and the raft. The family, after some initial cross-examination, welcomes, feeds and rooms Huck with an amiable boy his age. With the light of the next morning, Huck estimates “it was a mighty nice family, and a mighty nice house, too”(110). This is the first of many compliments Huck bestows on the Grangerfords and their possessions.

Huck is impressed by all of the Grangerfords’ belongings and liberally offers compliments. The books are piled on the table “perfectly exact”(111), the table had a cover made from “beautiful oilcloth”(111), and a book was filled with “beautiful stuff and poetry”(111). He even appraises the chairs, noting they are “nice split-bottom chairs, and perfectly sound, too–not bagged down in the middle and busted, like an old basket”(111). It is apparent Huck is more familiar with busted chairs than sound ones, and he appreciates the distinction.

Huck is also more familiar with flawed families than loving, virtuous ones, and he is happy to sing the praises of the people who took him in. Col. Grangerford “was a gentleman all over; and so was his family”(116). The Colonel was kind, well-mannered, quiet and far from frivolish. Everyone wanted to be around him, and he gave Huck confidence. Unlike the drunken Pap, the Colonel dressed well, was clean-shaven and his face had “not a sign of red in it anywheres” (116). Huck admired how the Colonel gently ruled his family with hints of a submerged temper. The same temper exists in one of his daughters: “she had a look that would make you wilt in your tracks, like her father. She was beautiful”(117).

Huck does not think negatively of the hints of iron in the people he is happy to care for and let care for him. He does not ask how three of the Colonels’s sons died, or why the family brings guns to family picnics. He sees these as small facets of a family with “a handsome lot of quality” (118).

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