A Comparison of the Heroes in Beowulf and Young Goodman Brown

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Beowulf, a rousing Old English poem of man and monster, narrates the rise and fall of a superhuman hero named Beowulf. “Young Goodman Brown,” a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, also features a hero, Goodman Brown, a Puritan husband, who declines markedly in the story. Both are victimized by the same sin of pride which leads to a lessening of faith. In Beowulf, the main character, a Geat warrior named Beowulf, possesses extraordinary qualities: “He was the strongest of men alive in that day, mighty and noble.” Upon spotting Beowulf approaching, the sea-guard of the Danes says, “Never have I seen a greater man on earth…” King Hrothgar of the Danes says of Beowulf, “Seafarers who took gifts to the Geats say that he has the strength of 30 men in his hand grip.” Beowulf chooses to fight Grendel by himself and without shield or weapons; previously the hero slew nine sea monsters with his sword. And he is fully willing to sacrifice his very life for this: “… I alone will fulfill the wish of your people … or die in the foe’s grasp.” Beowulf consciously chooses to act in a superhuman manner: “I shall perform the deeds of a hero or I have passed my last day in this mead hall.” Even Grendel recognizes the hero’s superior strength: “The criminal knew he had not met in this middle-earth another with such a grip.” Other warriors when thinking of Beowulf “would quickly compose a skillful tale in words.” Hrothgar refers to Beowulf as “the best of warriors.” The Danish queen Wealhtheow compliments after Grendel’s defeat, “You have earned forever the praise of men from near and far.” Hrothgar expounds on good warriors: “This is the best-born man – my friend Beowulf … the best of warriors.” When the dragon burns the mead hall o... ... middle of paper ... ...Hall, Inc., 1968. Goldsmith, Margaret E.. “The Corruption of Beowulf.” In Readings on Beowulf, edited by Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodmam Brown", The Story and Its Writer, 4th ed. Ed. Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1995, 595-604. Shear, Walter. "Cultural Fate and Social Freedom in Three American Short Stories", Studies in Short Fiction, Newberry, S.C., 1992 Fall, 29:4, 543-549. Shippey, T.A.. “The World of the Poem.” In Beowulf – Modern Critical Interpretations, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. Thompson, Stephen P, editor. Readings on Beowulf. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998. Tritt, Michael. "Young Goodman Brown and the Psychology of Projection", Studies in Short Fiction, Newberry, S.C., 1986 Winter, 23:1, 113-117.

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