Young Goodman Brown from a Moral Standpoint

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Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts. At the age of four, his father passed away from yellow fever, forcing his family to move in with his uncle. The positively influential Uncle Robert Manning pushed Hawthorne to succeed in school and insisted he go to college. Following his education at Bowdoin College, Hawthorne spent years in isolation mastering the art of writing. It was during those years when Hawthorne discovered that his ancestors were founders and Puritan leaders of the Salem witch trials. Shortly after this tragic finding, he wrote “Young Goodman Brown,” a tale that is considered one of the greatest in American literature. Analyzing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work from a moral perspective can help illuminate his short story: “Young Goodman Brown.”

Hawthorne was both prideful and embarrassed in the actions of his ancestors. According to Jacqueline Shoemaker, Hawthorne felt pride in seeing the history of his own family in Salem and their prominence and accomplishments that greatly overshadowed the declining fortunes of subsequent generations (Shoemaker). However, following the discovery of his ancestry’s association with the immoral prosecution of Quakers during the Salem witch trials, Hawthorne’s feelings of embarrassment began to trump his feelings of pride. Hawthorne’s ancestors were not only a part of the immoral Salem witch trials, but they were also the leaders; they were in charge of the slaughtering of many innocent men and women during the late 1600’s. Nina Baym states that though the guilt from the actions of his ancestry, Hawthorne changed his last name from “Hathorne” to “Hawthorne” “as a gesture of separation from the judgmental people who had hanged witches and wanted nothing to do with his mothe...

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