Free YGB Essay - Innocence vs Reality in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

Free YGB Essay - Innocence vs Reality in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

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The story Young Goodman Brown presents two themes; loss of innocence and coping with reality. Loss of Innocence is a major theme of the story and is easily seen. A loss of innocence is when those that do not know something horrible or do not believe in its existence come to an understanding of that horrible thing that forever changes them. The innocents in the story are Goodman Brown and his wife, Faith. Faith, we see is capable of attaining heaven(577), a good place where evil is unknown. Brown is also an innocent as shown by when the devil reveals to him a series of horribles as the two walk through the woods-namely that his grandfather, his mentor, and the preacher have all communed with the devil before (578-580). In the passage, the devil puts it upon himself to rectify this lack of understanding by informing those who had hoped for good, that their very nature is evil. The truth is what Goodman Brown had said before "There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil! for to thee is this world given(581)."

            Coping with reality becomes a major issue after the loss of innocence. Both of our innocents must devise a way of dealing with the new found horribles. The devil, in our passage, suggests : "Evil must be your only happiness." When Brown denies the devil's truth(584), he chooses the alternative. Brown lives out his life an uphappy and distrustful man (584). His wife, once a happy person, due to evidence of the contrary, did not change and lived a happy life. So we can see there were two paths to follow once innocence has been lost-accepantance of the horrible truth which leads to happiness or the constant denial of it and consequent gloom (585).

            These two themes point out two very separate beliefs of the sociohistorical period during which Hawthorne wrote. Puritanism had held sway over American thought for many generations prior to Hawthorne. It presented the idea that all men are born sinful due to Original Sin. That understanding was the basis for the loss of innocence theme described earlier. At Hawthorne's time puritanical beliefs were transforming. The new theology emphasized a connection of man to nature. Any truths to be found in nature were right and true. This presented the second theme or question of coping with reality.

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The old puritanical belief was that the best way of dealing with sin was to acknowledge it and to try to control the body and its impulses. This was exemplified in the story by the unhappy Brown. In Hawthorne's work the transformed Puritanism was presented as the second choice of dealing with reality, accepting this new truth and living with it. When Faith accepts the new natural truth she is the new way. Hawthorne's story therefore mirrored the clash between the new and the old theologies in their dealings with sin.
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