Free YGB Essay - The Message of Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

Free YGB Essay - The Message of Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

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"`Lo! there ye stand, my children…”     In the story "Young Goodman Brown", the prominent theme is that everyone has a dark side. As the dark figure clearly states, "Evil is the nature of mankind." Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" describes the hunger for virtue people of the early 19th century had, and how that virtue is all but a dream, through his tone and imagery.

            As the passage begins, the first word read is "Lo!" An audience reads this word, and immediately gets the feeling that someone of a supreme nature or of high power is speaking. "...[T]here ye stand, my children," again allows the reader to see that some sort of father figure is about to speak to his children. The next several words describe the harsh tone of how this "figure" is speaking. This dark tone coming from words like "deep and solemn" easily sets up how the figure is speaking to his children. However, the reader receives a glimpse of a past good in this devilish character. When Hawthorne writes that the figure speaks with "almost sad...dispairing awfulness," the audience sees that the dark creature at one time might have not been so melancholy, "as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race." This thought runs parallel to some form of biblical text where Lucifer, an angel of God, is damned out of heavens to become the ruler of Hell. Hawthorne's background of a religious family probably makes him knowledgeable about these histories. The phrase brings about a sense of the dark figure's previous peaceful past--how the figure was once a good soul, virtuous with the rest of the audience souls. The passage gives a down tone when it describes the feeling of the dark figure. One might also get a sense of the imagery the Hawthorne accomplishes when describing the distraught figure. The audience can see the creature talking with his deep dark voice, and the fear of what really is true about our society. The figure remembers being of an "angelic nature," how he too had a virtuous persona. Unfortunately, as the context of the passage conveys, there is a harsh reality that virtuous world is just a myth. This is against all of Young Goodman Brown's beliefs that there is no evil if one sets their mind to it, but the figure proves Brown very wrong.

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            When the devilish figure says, "Depending on one another's hearts, ye had still hoped, that virtue were not all a dream," one might interpret this as a sign that evil is about to take over whatever good there was in Salem. Again, the tone of this passage emulates a somber feeling, that all good left in this world will eventually disappear. On the other hand, I feel very fond of the statement, in that it describes the virtue's foils. How every good is contradicted with a bad. The people of Salem wanted a peaceful society with no bad thoughts or actions. In a real world, acts of virtue are usually contradicted with acts of evil, it never sways towards one direction only. That is why the diabolic figure speaks the truth that the people of Salem refuse to believe, or rather, do not want to accept. The evil figure continues on to say that, "Now are ye undeceived!" That all this time, the people of Salem have been fools to believe in such a virtuistic society, they should have known, that type of society is unrealistic. An example of how the society dealt with such evil was through the Salem witch trials. One of Hawthorne's grandparents was involved in the judging of the actual trials. This is why Young Goodman Brown portrays any young man of that time, because all persons believed such an evil existed but did not want to accept its burdens. Everyone "dream[ed]" of a virtue filled society, but in the end, it all comes down to what people give society. For the society to be balanced both sides, good and evil, must exist.

            The last few lines clearly define who this supernatural being is: 'Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome, again, my children, to the communion of your race!" These lines are the defining words to the entire story of Young Goodman Brown. His entire life, Brown always sought peace and happiness. When he goes on his journey he did not expect to come back, making sure to leave his wife, Faith, on a good note. In all his desires, Young Goodman Brown did not expect to find what he did at the end of his journey. Hawthorne sets up this final moment with ultimate evil very well. Just Brown and his wife staring at the "Wicked One;" a very climactic scene in the short story. But what exactly does Hawthorne imply when the two innocent beings encounter the evil one? It seems that the author tries to convince society of its evil ways. Interestingly at the end of the story, Brown clearly feels the sin that he has witnessed at the following church service. He cannot concentrate to the words that priest is trying to say, because he feels that they mean nothing after he has seen the ultimate enemy. Hawthorne leaves the story with excellent imagery of Young Goodman Brown pondering about what is left of life. He understands the loss we, as a people, must take to have right in this world.

            All the other Goodman Browns of this world experience the same feelings. They want to do good for society, but they know evil lurks. They know that the swaying power of sin is very strong. So one must struggle to be happy with life by learning to control their natural evil that lies within all of us.

The complete passage:

"`Lo! there ye stand, my children,' said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad, with its despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race. `Depending upon one another's hearts, ye had still hoped, that virtue were not all a dream. Now are ye undeceived! Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome, again, my children, to the communion of your race!'

 
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