Hawthorne To Faulkner: The Evolution Of The Short Story

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Hawthorne to Faulkner: The Evolution of the Short Story

Nathaniel Hawthorne and William Faulkner’s short stories “Young Goodman Brown” and “A Rose for Emily” use a moral to endorse particular ideals or values. Through their characters examination and evaluation of one another, the author’s lesson is brought forth. The authors’ style of preaching morals is reminiscent of the fables of Aesop and the religious parables of the Old and New Testament. The reader is faced with a life lesson after reading Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown:” you cannot judge other people. A similar moral is presented in Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” The use of morals combined with elements of Romantic era writing show the stories of Hawthorne and Faulkner to be descendants both of fables and of Romance literature.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” tells the story of a young man who decides to league himself with the devil. Goodman Brown is a citizen of a typical town with its share of good people and not-so good people. Goodman Brown believed that he knew the inhabitants of the town fairly well. He knew Goody Cloyse, for example, to be “a very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual advisor, jointly with the minister and Deacon Gookin” (598). He knew Deacon Gookin was a strict man of the Church and was always “bound to some ordination or ecclesiastical council” (599). However, in his travels through the woods with the old man, Goodman Brown notices Goody Cloyse progressing down the path.

“‘A marvel, truly that Goody Cloyse should be so far in the wilderness at nightfall,’ he [Goodman Brown] said” (598).

Just as he begins to have doubts about the woman’s pureness of heart, he comes across Deacon Gookin in the woods as well. As they are supposedly fine, upstanding citizens of the village, Goodman Brown has to wonder why they are traveling through the woods on the same path that he is taking with the devil. Afterwards, he is astonished to see not only these two upstanding citizens at Satan’s ceremony, but almost everyone else in the town as well. It is through his assumption that his fellow townspeople were good that Goodman Brown learns the story’s most important lesson: namely that you should not judge people at face value; anyone can put on airs, and his encountering of the devil’s ceremony emphasize...

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...b¾that he was not a marrying man” (461).

Later in the story, Faulkner makes reference to Emily’s possible necrophilia, although no direct statement is ever made. Homosexuality and necrophilia would in no way be topics to be discussed in Hawthorne’s time. As a modern writer, Faulkner had a considerable amount of freedom in what he wrote, and this freedom is reflected in his work.

The short story began as fables and parables that evolved into more complex psychological studies of virtues, ideals, and values. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” emphasizes these morals as he examines the inner workings of his main character’s thoughts as he encounters the devil and the townspeople. Faulkner also uses these techniques in his modern style of writing, however he tailors them to fit the more controversial issue of his generation while still maintaining a hold on the past generation he is examining. Over time, values and ideals stay the same, but the manner in which the technique is used evolves with current affairs and modern vocabulary.

Works Cited

Charters, Ann. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

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