Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown and History

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“Young Goodman Brown” and History Q. D. Leavis states that “perhaps the persecuting aspect of their way of life was peculiarly present to Hawthorne because of the witch-hanging judge and the Quaker-whipping Major among his ancestors” (30). This is a reference to one instance of historical allusion in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown.” This essay will explore a variety of historical incidences referred to in this short story. Clarice Swisher in “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography” states: William Hathorne was a colonial magistrate involved in the persecution of Quakers, another Protestant religious group. Hawthorne later described him as “grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned,” a hard, dark man. His son John Hathorne was well known as a Puritan judge who condemned women as witches in 1692 during the Salem witchcraft trials, and who later expressed no remorse for his actions. . . . Of his ancestors, especially Judge John, Hawthorne later said, “I . . . hereby take shame upon myself for their sakes, and pray that any curse incurred by them . . . may be now and henceforth removed (14). Reference to these forbears of Goodman Brown is made in a notable episode in “Young Goodman Brown” when the devil responds to Brown’s assertion of his family’s Christian past: “We have been a race of honest men and good Christians, since the days of the martyrs. And shall I be the first of the name of Brown, that ever took this path and kept"- The devil then responds: "Such company, thou wouldst say," observed the elder person, interrupting his pause. "Well said, Goodman Brown! I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; an... ... middle of paper ... ... Derived from New England Living.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” 1835. http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~daniel/amlit/goodman/goodmantext.html Leavis, Q.D. “Hawthorne as Poet.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966. 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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