The Allegory of Young Goodman Brown

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The Allegory of Young Goodman Brown

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is an allegory, though an allegory with deficiencies, with tensions existing between the reader and the story.

Peter Conn in “Finding a Voice in an New Nation” explains Hawthorne’s style of allegorizing and how it creates unwanted tensions for the reader:

He once planned to call a group of his stories “Allegories of the Heart,” and in that unused title he summed up much of his method and his subject. His chosen terrain lay between the realms of theology and psychology, and allegory provided the means of his explorations. . . . Where traditional allegory was secured in certitude, however, Hawthorne’s allegorical proceedings yield only restlessness and doubt. The stable system of correspondences that tied allegory’s images and ideas together was lodged squarely upon the religious orthodoxy that Hawthorne rejected. In his belated version of the sacramental world, the links binding visible to spirit have become vexed and problematic. . . . The flickering, uncertain revelations offered by the physical world in Hawthorne’s fiction allow simultaneously for confession and concealment, for discovery and disguise. This doubleness generates tensions that can be felt throughout Hawthorne’s work . . .(83-84).

Yvor Winters in “Maule’s Curse, or Hawthorne and the Problem of Allegory” says that Hawthorne is essentially an allegorist (11). Stanley T. Williams in “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind” states that the author was always “perfecting his delicate craft of the symbol, of allegory” (42). A. N. Kaul states : “In an effort to apprehend and adequately reflect the new complexity of man’s life, he [Hawthorne] molded the venerable – in ...

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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.

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.

Williams, Stanley T. “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.

Winters, Yvor. “Maule’s Curse, or Hawthorne and the Problem of Allegory.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.
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