Hawthorne's Ancestral Influence

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Hawthorne’s Ancestral Influence The story, “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, appears, on the surface, to be a story about a man who struggles inside himself between good and evil. However, as one analyzes the story deeper, a reader will find it is indeed ambiguous. There have been many interpretations all of which find something different hidden among the passages. Upon deeper analysis, I have discovered many similarities as well as differences with real historical events. Historical events are drawn from Hawthorne’s own Hathorne ancestors and their Puritan roots, The Salem Witch trials, and other evil deeds that are interwoven into the story. In the story, Brown leaves his new wife, Faith, who represents all that is good and…show more content…
When a child loses a parent at such a young age, the imagination replaces the memories. When he was old enough, he began searching for facts to fill in the holes. “He supplemented the images of his father’s nautical life that he gleamed from the logbooks by reading travel narratives, histories, and adventure stories about the exotic regions in which Nathaniel Hathorne had sailed” (Carton 147). Following college, Hawthorne spent “twelve years of self-imposed isolation” (McCabe 7). Hawthorne spent most of that time researching “local New England History” to be used in his literary creations. What Hawthorne discovered was startling. Hawthorne had assumed his “17th Century paternal ancestors” were “yeoman farmers or seafaring men” (McCabe 7). Instead, he discovered they “had been illustrious founders as well as political and religious Puritan leaders of Salem” (McCabe 7). In the story, “Young Goodman Brown,” Hawthorne incorporates little pieces of his paternal ancestral history. The Hathorne family were strict Puritans. He referenced this in the story when he wrote, “We have been a race of honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs” (Hawthorne 1124). The fact that Hawthorne draws inspiration from his ancestors for his stories displays a sense of pride as well as the disappointment he feels about them. “He was proud of their prominence and accomplishments that greatly overshadowed the declining…show more content…
In the story, Brown is walking with the devil who has taken the form of the older version of himself; perhaps, it is his father’s form. Brown wants to stop this journey of evil purpose. He tells the devil, “My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him” (Hawthorne 1124). The devil interrupts him, “I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that’s no trifle to say. I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem” (Hawthorne 1124). Hawthorne referenced his great- great grandfather’s actions in this passage. However, he changed a few details. William Hathorne was not the constable who actually administered the lashes. He was, however, responsible for the actions of the constable. William Hathorne was the major who issued the warrant. The constable was all too happy to comply. In his story, Hawthorne writes that the grandfather is the constable; because he perhaps believes the guilt should be William Hathorne’s guilt more than the constable. The constable may have enjoyed the task; however, he was doing as he was
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