Young Goodman Brown: The Puritans and Love Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”, exposes the puritan view of love and relationships. In theory, these two visions are diametrically opposed. One exalts love as a physical manifestation between two individuals (although it also claims to represent higher ideals), the other sees it as a spiritual need, one best manifested by attachment to God. In fact, the puritans did not see love as a good thing, but rather as an evil, a grim necessity, that is, they saw physical love (between a man and a woman, or sexuality and all it carries with it) as such. The emotional turmoil affecting Goodman Brown clearly expresses this.
The problem we find in this story, and in puritanism, is that it presents contrasting views of love. Attachment to earthly possessions, to other people in fact, is discouraged, because everything physical leads to temptation and damnation, and ultimately hell, while the road to salvation of the individual wanders through a spiritual discipline, rigour, austerity. A man should not love his wife more than he loves God; in fact, it is recommended that he not derive pleasure from his wife, but rather seek suffering, in order to redeem himself from his earthly condition, his impure state.
This conception of love can be traced back to the first chapters of the Bible, Genesis. Adam and Eve, in the garden of Eden, eat the forbidden fruit and are forever outcast from paradise, forced to suffer. The puritans argued that, if God wishes us to suffer, who are we to go against his wishes. We are sinners, because of the Original Sin, and it was Eve who gav...
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...ne, it kept the women in a box, it basically prevented uprising by instilling divine fear. Eventually, these ideas evolved, but we still witness many of the after effects of puritanism in today's world.
Again, however, we are faced with a story, this time written after the fact, that sheds a negative light on an ideology. It seems Nathaniel Hawthorne did not want to endorse puritanism, but denounce it, denounce the abuse and contradiction it implied. Once more, we find a work that denigrates an established understanding of love. First, there was opposition to the courtly love tradition, now, we find opposition to the puritan love ideology. So far, we have only been willing to define love by what it wasn't, what we felt was a wrong way of doing things.
If a more definitive answer is to be found, it must be found elsewhere.
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