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Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown (1835) and The Scarlet Letter. It is rather fascinating that the two readings have a number of similarities even though the plots of both stories are rather different. The Young Goodman Brown is all about an inexplicable and mystifying course that is occupied by witches and immoral conduct in the suburbs of a Puritan Village (Moores). Hawthorne has been able to captivate the reader by drawing a fine line between the good and the wicked. At the same time, he has allowed blossoming of creativity by making the reader wonder what truly the heroine of the story wants. These are among the various reasons why Young Goodman Brown is considered as one of the greatest short stories in the American literature. The reader goes through the pages thinking that the work is a parable that focuses on the temptations faced by every human being and on the natural human inclination to jump to conclusions about other people on inadequate proof. In the story, the events are shown to take place in 1692 autumn and spring in a town of Boston known as Salem. The town was a theocracy where supreme importance was given to the moral laws of Christianity. The short story occurs more or less in the period of the Salem witch trials during which 20 innocent people were found at fault to practice witchcraft and put to death.
Goodman Brown is the main character in the story and is a Puritan who got married recently. He is a believer in the decency and righteousness of the people in his town until he finds a majority of them in a forest where they are present at a witches' Sabbath. Another important character is Faith who is the wife of Goodman Brown (Allyn). There is a mysterious character, The Devil Figure, with whom Goodman Brown meets in the forest. He goes together with Goodman Brown to the witches' Sabbath where Brown is later introduced to a brotherhood of sin, immorality and wickedness. Another character is that of the Church leader, Minister, who helps Goodman Brown to get to the forest's unsanctified baptismal altar. Deacon Gookin (the Churchman). Martha Carrier and Goody Cloyse (Cathechism teacher) are other characters who are shown to be present at the unholy event in the forest. Faith is shown to be led by Martha and Cloyse to the altar. Other shown as the attendants of witches' Sabbath are Powwows (Indian medicine guys).
The Scarlet Letter is also shown to take place around 17th century in a Puritan village of Boston. Unlike Goodman Brown, it revolves around a young female figure, Hester Prynne. The lady is shown to be directed from the town prison along with Pearl, her newborn daughter and the scarlet letter "A" on her breast. Hester is being punished for adultery as she has a child but refuse to reveal the father of the child. This short story by Hawthorne was successful in attaining an instant and long-lasting triumph for the reason that he took a distinctive American standpoint while addressing some issues related to spirituality and morality. Adultery was considered as an exceptionally risque topic but Hawthorne was able to address this issue by having the support of the literary foundation of the New England. The Scarlet Letter, without a doubt, is a perfect representation of the literary genius of Hawthorne and is renowned for the rational and emotional depth.
The main character in the story Hester Prynne who is made to wear a red cloth piece with an A on it so that she could be identified as an adulterous female. Pearl is the infant daughter whose father is not revealed by Hester. Other characters in the story are Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale (the misiter who is Pearl's real father). Roger Chillingworth is the husband of Hester and is a very important character too as he is all set to discover and give punishment to the lover of her wife. Rev. John Wilson, Governor Bellingham, Mistress Hibbins and Master Brackett are other important characters in the story.
Both Young Goodman Brown and The Scarlet Letter have a sense of uncertainty and indistinctness and leave the readers to interpret in their own ways. Even though the plots of the two stories are very dissimilar but they have an interesting range of similarities. In "Young Goodman Brown," the setting is concerned with witchcraft and sinful behavior lying in the forested area of the Puritan town, Salem. On the other hand, the sin demonstrated in "The Scarlet Letter" is not shown to lie in the forest. Instead, it is embodies in the A-shaped symbol on Hester Prynne's breasts. Hawthorne has showed woods in both his unique short stories and has used them to whisper towns' secrets. The characters are shown to change after their visits to the woods.
The segregation characteristic of the two stories is power as well as fault. The seclusion of Hester Prynne in the Scarlet Letter is intentional as it is in Goodman Brown. In simple words, both the main characters of the two stories are shown to choose separation from society by their wills. Young Goodman is presented to disengage himself and cut off from reality by detaching himself from the world opting for isolation. Goodman wastes his life by withdrawing from the outer world and being a negative and unenthusiastic person. On the other hand, Hester of The Scarlet Letter turns out to be the symbol of sin humiliating her own self by carrying the A-letter around on her chest in the proudest of manner as if it was some kind of award (Gartner). She is seen as using her immoral act as a good reason or excuse for all her actions. In this way, she turns the humiliating symbol into a positive model for the people of the town.
Thus, it can be easily concluded that Hawthorne has been able to inject the good vs. evil drama in the two discussed short stories. Hawthorne has been able to put light on the darker and brighter sides of life in his stories. He has shown how beauty and ugliness have a certain impact on the morality of an individual. He has been successful in making an association between love and sin in both the mentioned short stories. It would not be incorrect to state that Hawthorne has been able to brilliantly amalgamate the good and bad traits of his characters in the most distinguished manner. In the end, he has left the reader to ask himself various questions regarding the good and evil aspects of life.
It is easy to notice after reading both stories that despite the fact that there are a lot of dissimilarities in the plots of the two, the characters have taken a similar journey on a sentimental ride for discovering their real selves. Both Goodman Brown and Hester have tested their strong points and uncovered their weaknesses more or less in the similar manner. As far as Goodman Brown is concerned, he was able to discover the wickedness and sinful behaviors of human beings. He was even able to realize that sin does exist in the world.
Hawthorne has wittingly addressed the issues of love, hate, darkness, light, good and evil and how these characteristics have an impact on an individual's life. Through Goodman's character, he has presented and focused on the idea ignorance cannot be considered as bliss all the time. It leaves "him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward, with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil" (Hawthorne 237). On the contrary, Hester's character depicts how she idealistically a dream was followed by her. Her misuse by the selfish minister makes it rather upsetting that she was forcefully asked to face…[continue]
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