Women in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

Powerful Essays
“Young Goodman Brown” and Women

What are the attitudes of the young Puritan husband Goodman Brown toward women, of the author toward women, of other characters in the story toward women? This essay intends to answer that question.

Randall Stewart in “Hawthorne’s Female Characters” states that there are three types of female characters in Hawthorne’s writings: (1) “the wholesome New England girl, bright, sensible and self-reliant;” (2) “the frail, sylph-like creature, easily swayed by a stronger personality;” and (3) “the woman with an exotic richness in her nature” (98), and that “Young Goodman Brown” has in Faith “cheerfulness, prettiness, and a simple-minded domesticity” (99). So this categorizes her under type (1).

In Salem village that fateful night when the young Puritan husband was departing home for the night, he exchanged “a parting kiss with his young wife.” From this we can conclude that he had a basic respect for her feelings(?) The wind was playing with “the pink ribbons of her cap.” Literary critic Wagenknecht surveys some of the critical interpretation relative to these ribbons:

Mathews finds the pastel of infancy in pink, but since pink is a color intermediate between red and white, William V. Davis prefers to take it as suggesting “neither total depravity nor innocence” but “the tainted innocence, the spiritual imperfection of mankind,” a view shared, up to a point, by Robinson. . . . (62).

So the critics would have us believe that the author is making a statement here: that seemingly good Faith is not all that good, based on the author’s placement of pink ribbons on her cap. She whispered, “Dearest heart, prithee put off your journey until sunrise and sleep...

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Lang, H.J.. “How Ambiguous is Hawthorne?” 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.

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Stewart, Randall. “Hawthorne’s Female Characters.” 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.
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