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Young Goodman Brown - Research Paper Example

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In this research paper, I wish to explore the complex relations amongst the symbols, conceptions and representations of goodness and evil along with the extensive puritan symbolism, morality and hypocrisy in the literary and cultural backdrop of New England, as depicted in Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown”. …
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Young Goodman Brown

Download file to see previous pages... The story is set against the 17th century backdrop, and published in his collection Moses from an Old Manse. My focus would lie on the author’s examination of the good-evil binary in this brilliantly symbolic tale. In this context, I will attempt to form an understanding of Hawthorn’s personal ideologies involving the symbols and imagery explored in the story. Certain representations of good and evil, like Faith’s pink ribbons, the Devil’s staff, and Goodman Brown’s journey into the forest, respectively stand for purity and innocence, evil, and Young Goodman Brown’s self-reflection into the dark side of his soul. Hawthorne’s Symbolic Perception: an Overview of the Puritan Context The Salem Witch Trials of 1692, where more than a hundred were tried, tortured and burnt on grounds of practicing witchcraft and the black arts, left a deep impression on Hawthorne’s perceptive symbolism of good and evil. It took the form of a deep-seated “ugly blot” on his mind as well as the records of early history of New England (Colacurcio 286). The Puritanical context of his fictions reflects a thorough understanding of Hawthorne’s symbolism and imagery. ...
The 1692 Salem incident was not, for him, a lonely outburst of religious passion and destructive conservatism, but as a whole, suggestive of the flawed metaphors of good and evil that was being publicized by Puritanism (Colacurcio 286). The character of Goodman Brown, it must be remembered, is a third generation puritan. By the virtue of being a product of the very ideals Hawthorne criticizes, his story bears a strong relevance to an understanding of Hawthorne’s peculiar handling of religious dichotomies (Colacurcio 286). The 1692 Salem case itself becomes a latent symbol in the story. The puritan understanding of evil encompassed a great many factors and conditions. Social conditioning drove the popular emphasis on a strict adherence to decorum, rules and religious dictates as delivered by the puritan fathers, the original establishers of the New England settlements. An unwavering observation of explicit religious and socio-cultural regulations ensured man’s “goodness”, while deviations from the rulebook caused evil temptations and the eventual damnation of the eternal soul. The binaries were simple, specific and strict. While dealing with such puritan settings, as in “Young Goodman Brown” and his most celebrated novel “The Scarlet letter”, Hawthorne exhibits an uneasy sense of ambiguity and uncertainty. His resolutions are not the simplistic symbolic triumph of goodness over evil or salvation over sin. His symbolism simmers with an unresolved urgency that sits awkwardly in the conservative framework of the 19th century America. “Young Goodman Brown”: Symbols, Binaries and Imagery Hawthorne devotes his primary attention to the raging contention between forces of good and evil in “Young ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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