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Realism vs. Romanticism in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

Powerful Essays
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic tale “Young Goodman Brown” is a good example of a short story embodying both characteristics of realism and characteristics of romanticism.

M. H. Abrams defines romantic themes in prominent writers of this school in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as being five in number: (1) innovations in the materials, forms and style; (2) that the work involve a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”; (3) that external nature be a persistent subject with a “sensuous nuance” and accuracy in its description; (4) that the reader be invited to identify the protagonist with the author himself; and (5) that this be an age of “new beginnings and high possibilities” for the person (177-79).

Let us examine “Young Goodman Brown” in light of the above. First of all, Hawthorne was a real innovator in his use of the psychological approach to characters within a story. A. N. Kaul considers Hawthorne “preeminently a ‘psychological’” writer – “burrowing, to his utmost ability, into the depths of our common nature, for the purposes of psychological romance. . . .” (2). Q. D. Leavis says: “Hawthorne has imaginatively recreated for the reader that Calvinist sense of sin. . . . But in Hawthorne, by a wonderful feat of transmutation, it has no religious significance, it is as a psychological state that it is explored” (37). The reader experiences most of the story through the eyes and feelings of the protagonist, Goodman. In the following passage the reader is allowed, as is typical, to read his thoughts:

"Poor little Faith!" thought he, for his heart smote him. "What a wretch am I, to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought, as she spoke, there was troubl...

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... Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” 1835. http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~daniel/amlit/goodman/goodmantext.html

James, Henry. Hawthorne. http://eldred.ne.mediaone.net/nh/nhhj1.html

Kaul, A.N. “Introduction.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

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.

Nathaniel Hawthorne.” The Norton Anthology: American Literature, edited by Baym et al. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1995.

Swisher, Clarice. “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
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