A reading of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” indicates that the author adheres to some, but not all of the Transcendentalist beliefs of the nineteenth century, especially in its symbolism and in its emphasis on personal responsibility.
Morse Peckham in “The Development of Hawthorne’s Romanticism”explains some aspects of Hawthorne’s Transcendentalist beliefs:
But another theme begins to appear, a matter which now involved Hawthorne in the gravest difficulties, the theme of American simplification, that notion that was so common among American Romantic Transcendentalists; not only is world redemption possible, but America is the predestined place for it to happen. . . . he was intellectualy and culturally too sophisticated, too modern, to be able to enter fully into the Transcendentalist vision, which was already an outmoded stage of Romanticism, at least for the advanced. . . . One of the marks of Transcendentalism is a fantastic extravagance of style. . . .Hawthorne achieves the equivalent of stylistic extravagance (95-96).
Hawthorne’s initiation into Transcendentalism began prior to his Brook Farm experience..
From 1836 to 1844 the Boston-centered Transcendentalist movement, led by Ralph Waldo Emerson, believed that human existence transcended the sensory realm, and rejected formalism in favor of individual responsibility. Hawthorne's fiancee Sophia Peabody drew him into "the newness," and in 1841 Hawthorne invested $1500 in the Brook Farm Utopian Community, leaving disillusioned within a year. His works show some Transcendentalist influence, including a belief in individual choice and consequence, and an emphasis on ...
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....’” Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 19 (Fall 1993): 17-18.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodmam Brown", The Story and Its Writer, edited by Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1995. 595-604.
Levy, Leo B. “The Problem of Faith in ‘Young Goodman Brown.’” Modern Critcial Views: Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.
Peckham, Morse. “The Development of Hawthorne’s Romanticism.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Shear, Walter. "Cultural Fate and Social Freedom in Three American Short Stories",
Studies in Short Fiction 29:4 (1992 Fall) 543-549.
Tritt, Michael. "Young Goodman Brown and the Psychology of Projection." Studies in
Short Fiction 23:1 (1986 Winter) 113-117.
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