Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown – A Psychological Short Story

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“Young Goodman Brown” – a Psychological Story Let us discuss the psychological aspect of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing as evidenced in his tale “Young Goodman Brown.” Peter Conn in “Finding a Voice in an New Nation” explains Hawthorne’s mix of psychology and theology. His chosen terrain lay between the realms of theology and psychology, and allegory provided the means of his explorations. . . . Concerned with individuals as specimens or types, he endowed his characters with solemnly stylized features and then studied their anxiety, or doubt, or guilt. He placed them amid settings and objects that gave symbolic expression to their inward states (83-84). Henry Seidel Canby in “A Skeptic Incompatible with His Time and His Past” talks about the value of Hawthorne’s “literary psychology”: This irreverent generation [of the 1950’s] has mocked at Hawthorne’s struggling souls who torture themselves over peccadilloes like adultery and are morally wrecked by obsessions that (so it is assumed) any good psychoanalyst could remove. . . . an observer of both epochs might add that the value of his literary psychology lies not in the deeds analyzed but in the picture of a struggle between right and wrong where the state of mind of the characters in conflict is immensely significant without regard to the rightness of what they think right or the wrongness of what they think wrong (62). There is probably unanimity among literary critics that Hawthorne is a “psychological” writer. Consider some of their statements chosen at random from various critiques of Hawthorne; Stanley T. Williams in “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind” says: What he wrote of New England was . . . .the subconscious mind... ... middle of paper ... .... “Hawthorne as Poet.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966. Lewis, R. W. B. “The Return into Time: Hawthorne.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966. Martin, Terence. Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Twayne Publishers Inc., 1965. Swisher, Clarice. “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Wagenknecht, Edward. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Man, His Tales and Romances. New York: Continuum Publishing Co., 1989. Williams, Stanley T. “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
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