Diversity in Young Goodman Brown, Ethan Brand, and The Birthmark


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Diversity in Young Goodman Brown, Ethan Brand, and The Birthmark

 

              "... it is no delusion.  There is an Unpardonable Sin!" , a quote

by Ethan Brand that is at  the root of many stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Nathaniel Hawthornes gloomy, dark style of writing is an emphasis on his theme

of evil at societies heart. Writing about what he knew, Hawthorne described the

puritan society in different periods of time and defined different characters

but all connected  through his style. The stories that exemplify the diversity

of Hawthornes writing are "Young Goodman Brown", " Ethan Brand", and "The

Birthmark".

 

              Having read these stories it is possible to become engrossed in

the darkness that is portrayed and none is better than "Young Goodman Brown" .

Young Goodman Brown, the character, is first introduced to us in the clearing of

Salem village and we learn that he has faith in the goodness of the village and

Faith for his companion as well.   The people that we meet in Salem village in

the first few paragraphs are just Goodman and Faith.  These two characters are

very important to understand for their surface characters or illusional

characters.  It is soon learned that Goodman Brown is not such a good man and

later Faith shows us just as much false character.  Goodman and Faith are not

the only characters that are not all they seem to be.  We come to meet more

characters in the short story that are superficial as is the village itself.

Goodman Brown leaves the bright, warm, goodness of his village to make a journey

in the woods to meet a stranger.  A good place to meet a stranger would be

these surrounding woods of Salem for it is here that described by Nathaniel

Hawthorne that "He had taken a dreary road,darkened by all the gloomiest trees

of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through,

and closed immediately behind." and  like the scheming mind of an evil person

the dark woods leads one down the wrong pathway.

 

              The woods are not an allusion as was the village, the woods are

exactly what they seem to be therefore the characters met inside the woods will

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be as shady as the woods themselves.  Leading Goodman Brown to his despair is

the first character, the stranger.  The stranger is much older than the Goodman

but the two converse easily and both understand each other even though they

talk around Goodmans evil purpose.  It is this easy conversation that Hawthorne

writes to us about Goodmans evil. Though Goodman Brown believes himself to be

alone in his journey down the trail the stranger tells him that it is a beaten

path and has been taken even by his father.  So does the world that has been

built up around Goodman Brown begin to crumble and with the first blow he is

set up for more devastation into the world of the devil.  " Wickedness or not,

I have a very general acquaintance here in New England." The devilish stranger

explains how even the noblest of people have an evil in their character and

those who hide are those who are trusted the most.  Many of these characters

that the stranger knows are companions of the Goodman and these are Goody

Cloyce ,the Deacon, the other patriots of Salem, and even his own wife Faith

who he sees worshiping in the woods behind a hazy fire.  By telling the story of

a devil worshiping town in Salem, which is already known for its witch scare,

Hawthorne tries to convey his beliefs that in all of humanity there can and is

evil.  For those who believe themselves to be good are not and those who do not

are.

 

            " Ethan Brand" is a different sort of story that will take place in

the side of a mountain where a man and his son and one particular a llimekiln

stoaker enter the scene.  Visualized to us by Hawthorne Bartram and his son are

sitting by the kiln, Bartram the steady worker burns limestone and talks to his

son about Ethan Brand. Ethan Brand is a mystery and is representative of the

people who are not understood or who may be the outcasts of society.  Ethan

Brand was a mystery to his townspeople who  by leaving the daily routine of

life and discontinuing the collective society was branded an outcast and maybe

even evil.  Hawthorne tries to tell the reader through the words of the

character Ethan Brand about the unpardonable sins in the world. " what need

have I of the Devil?  I have left him behind me, on my track.  It is with such

halfway sinners as you that he busies himself.  Fear not because I open the door.

 I do but act by old custom, and am going to trim your fire, like a lime-burner,

as I was once."  by this one statement Ethan Brand decides that he is not a

pawn of the devil as thought to be.  The characters that Nathaniel Hawthorne

writes about in this story are on the opposite side of the good and evil

idealism.  These characters are not worshiping the Devil as those in " Young

Goodman Brown"  but are just as devilish in their track of thought.  Both ,

described by Hawthorne, are small towns and the thinking is small as well.

This small thinking connects them and I believe that Hawthorne meant the group

opposed to the individual are the devils pawns.  Though the main characters in

the stories believe themselves to be evil somehow Hawthorne portrays them to

have the most humanity of any of the characters.  " There are many such lime-

kilns in that tract of country, for the purpose of burning white marble which

composes a large part of the substance of the hills.  Some of them, built years

ago, and long deserted, with weeds growing in the vacant round of the

interior..." setting the scene for the Devils advocates Hawthorne writes about

the hills of the limekilns.  The vivid details of the characters surroundings

shapes the characters themselves and we read about them both to help understand

Hawthornes idea of evil in humanity.  Overall in the description of both these

the reader can visualize how a person can be evil.

 

       Evil is at the root of the story in " The Birthmark" for it is here that

Hawthorne writes about the most sinful character.  In all of the seven deadly

sins committed by man; the deadliest of all is pride.  Priding ones self is

terrible but carrying this vanity to another can be deadly.  After reading " The

Birthmark" the character Aylmer finds for himself that pride costed him dearly,

he lost his lovely wife.  Aylmer is representative of the sin pride.  Hawthorne

describes the character in such a way that Aylmer portrays himself as Godlike.

The character Aylmer is evil because according to Hawthorne " He had devoted

himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies ever to be weaned from

them by any second passion.".  Is this the possible pride that leads a man to be

considered evil?  Yes, according to evidence in the story Hamthorne makes the

character Aylmer in human by taking away his passion for his wife and having it

replaced by passion for only his work.  Hawthorne describes Aylmers

preoccupation with perfecting his wifes beauty in the story when writing " At

all the seasons which should have been their happiest, he invariably and

without intending it, nay, in spite of a purpose to the contrary reverted to

this one disastrous topic." .  Through this text the author creates a character

that we may see into in order to reveal the one tracked mind.  Pride is the

ultimate goal for Aylmar; he intends to make a  prize of his wife by trying to

make her extraordinary person and alleviating any blemishes.  His wife

Georgianais the innocent victim in the story because she must follow her

husbands wishes.  Hawthorne once again writing in his time period made

traditional characters of society and these people were in an average class;

henceforth keeping traditional good and evil characters as in many fiction

stories.  Hawthorne has created a couple who are the examples of good and evil;

Georgiana has the mark of innocence upon her and Aylmer carries delusions of

grandeur.  Georgiana is admired for her beauty by the publics eye and Aylmer is

envied by the same.  Hawthorne tells us outright that the two are not happy but

what must be understood is that because Aylmer is unhappy with her birthmark ,

" My peerless bride, it is successful!  You are perfect!, ...dearest Aylmer, I

am dying."  , pays the ultimate price for perfection.

 

              Nathaniel Hawthorne is a world renowned writer for his many skills

but especially for his vivid descriptions of gloom and darkness.  These skills

define his writing and have an affect on the reader of astonishment.  The dark

gloomy writing that Hawthorne portrays in all of these stories give an insight

to the evil of normal people and how it has fatal potential.


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