It is the intention of this essay to demonstrate the compulsion toward gross evil in “Young Goodman Brown” that is indicated by the actions of the characters, a compulsion that includes not only the leading characters but virtually everyone in the tale.
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.” The wind was playing with “the pink ribbons of her cap.” Literary critic Wagenknecht surveys some of the critical interpretation relative to these ribbons on Faith’s cap and how they convey a message from Hawthorne:
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 in your own bed tonight. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she’s afraid of herself sometimes.” Q.D. Leavis says in “Hawthorne as Poet” that “It is a journey he takes under compulsion, and it should not escape us that she tries to stop him because she is under a similar compulsion to go on a ‘journey’ herself” (36). So the main male and female characters are manifesting similar compulsions toward evil.
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...n toward evil in the tale, which is indicated by the actions of the characters, a compulsion that includes not only the leading characters but virtually everyone.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Complete Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc.,1959. 247-56.
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.
Martin, Terence “Six Tales.” In Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Twayne Publishers Inc., 1965.
Wagenknecht, Edward. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Man, His Tales and Romances. New York: Continuum Publishing Co., 1989.
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