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The Style of Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown

“Young Goodman Brown” – the Style

Sculley Bradley, Richmond Croom Beatty and E. Hudson Long in “The Social Criticism of a Public Man” state: “Beyond his remarkable sense of the past, which gives a genuine ring to the historical reconstructions, beyond his precise and simple style, which is in the great tradition of familiar narrative, the principal appeal of his work is in the quality of its allegory” (49). The style found in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” contains the features quoted in the above passage, as well as many others – which will be discussed in this essay.

The “precise” style mentioned by Bradley above may be the “detailed” style stated by Clarice Swisher in “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography”; she says: “In his journal – a kind of artist’s sketchbook – he recorded twenty-five thousand words describing people and places in detail” based on two brief visits (18). The author’s attention to detail may be the reason that every word seems to be meaningful in his sentences. Can you discard any words from the opening sentence without sacrificing some meaning: “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 can notice right away that Hawthorne writes in a well-read and cultivated style, avoiding the use of profanity, vulgar language, or words offensive to the ear. Consider his precise word selection from an enormous vocabulary:

They continued to walk onward, while the elder traveller exhorted his companion to make good speed and persevere in the path, discoursing so aptly, that his arguments seemed rather to spring up in the bosom of his auditor, than to be suggested by himself. As they went, he plucked a branch of maple, to serve for a walking-stick, and began to strip it of the twigs and little boughs, which were wet with evening dew

Even the most emotional outburst in the entire story does not contain any language remotely displeasing or uncultivated: “’Ha! ha! ha!’ roared Goodman Brown, when the wind laughed at him. “Let us hear which will laugh loudest! Think not to frighten me with your deviltry! Come witch, come wizard, come Indian powow, come devil himself! and here comes Goodman Brown. You may as well fear him as he fear you!’”

Essay on the Growth of Nora and Kristina Linde in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

The Growth of Nora and Kristina Linde in A Doll’s House

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, is a play that was written ahead of its time. In this play Ibsen tackles prevailing social norms by presenting two strong-willed women. Both Kristina and Nora chose the men they married by an intellectual rather than an emotional process: Kristina gave up the man she loved (Nils Krogstad) to provide economic security for her mother and her two younger brothers; Nora married Torvald Helmer at a time when he could have prosecuted her father for financial activities which were wrong if not simply illegal.1 Whether she married him out of thankfulness or to influence him during the time of decision is not clear, but one doubts that this timing was mere coincidence; if Nora married Torvald Helmer to save her father, we have reason to doubt that she was ever as empty-headed a “doll” as she claimed to be.

Neither woman knew how to convey her thoughts and feelings to the man she loved: When Kristina broke off with Nils Krogstad, she believed she would spare him grief by ending the relationship ruthlessly and, necessarily, crushing the love he bore her. She was badly mistaken. In making him believe that she had thrown him over for a richer man, she drove him into crime. When she comes to visit Nora she has been on her own for three years and learned how to support herself. Moreover, she has become so aware of her own motivations and such an understanding of his that she comes to the town with the deliberate intent of speaking with her now-widowed lover, and she is so beyond society’s concept of what a woman should do and say in a courtship that she can begin the discussion of love and marriage with him. The audience can see that ha…

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2. The best description of this subplot and love story is Davies (1982:33-34).

Works Cited and Consulted:

Brandes, Georg. 1964. Henrik Ibsen. A Critical Study. New York: Benjamin Blom. Reprint of 1899 edition.

Clurman, Harold. 1977. Ibsen. New York: Macmillan.

Davies, H. Neville. 1982. “Not just a bang and a whimper: the inconclusiveness of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.” Critical Quarterly 24:33-34.

Heiberg, Hans. 1967. Ibsen. A Portrait of the Artist. Coral Gables, Florida: University of Miami.

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House. Dover Thrift Edition, 1992

Koht, Halvdan. 1971. Life of Ibsen. New York: Benjamin Blom.

Meyer, Michael. 1971. Ibsen. A Biography. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company.

Northam, John. 1965. “Ibsen’s Search for the Hero.” Ibsen. A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

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