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Nathaniel Hawthornes Young Goodman Brown English Literature Essay

968 words (4 pages) Essay in English Literature

5/12/16 English Literature Reference this

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Hawthorne uses naturalistic visual imagery and symbolism, through colour changes of light and darkness, to show contrast of the “pious and ungodly” (26). In the beginning, it is at dusk that Brown sets off into the forest, and the evening will gets darker .This symbolizes the foreshadowing of the light of faith slowly fading away from Brown as he wanders away further into the forest. In turn; representing the loneliness of a life without faith, which can be seen when Brown goes through despair towards the end of the story. In contrast, the celestial presence of the metonymy “blue arch, the stars brightening in it” and the “deep arch of the firmament” (26) denotes a sense of hope and the strong existence of faith. This is paradoxical to the Puritan belief that the forest is a “heathen wilderness” (26), which indicate that it is irreligious and untamed, where no “church had ever been gathered nor solitary Christian prayed” (26). This reassures Brown to not lose hope.

However, just as Brown manages to have reassurance in faith, a “black mass of cloud” (26) appears overhead. This brings about the downward change of the once hopeful allegory, where the presence of hope is now overshadowed by gloom, foreshadowing Brown`s state of depression later on. Another contrast is made using the symbolism of the “red light” (27), “lurid blaze against the sky” (27) and “four blazing pines, their tops aflame” (27) to illustrate the witches Sabbath, which in contrast to the Godliness of the “blue arch” (26), is to mark the presence of evil. These comparisons illustrate effectively the change from good to evil.

The use of figurative language helps to emphasize a sinister ambience created by Hawthorne. The alliteration “whispering without a wind” (26) and the onomatopoeia “murmur” (26) indicates a haunting attribute to the forest, suggesting that there is evil lurking around. It can also be seen as a foreshadow to the murmurs of the chants Brown hears later at the witches Sabbath. “Nothing can be done until I get on the ground” (26) implies that perhaps the Minister, together with the Deacon is flying, as Brown hears their voices “talking so strangely in the empty air” (26) but “the travellers nor their steeds were visible” (25). This encapsulates the notion of the “unseen” (21), which causes the reader to doubt whether it is real or an extension of Brown`s fantasy.

Hawthorne`s use of irony, together with controlled ambiguity, thoroughly but deftly permeates the narrative (Novelguide). The obvious would be the beginning of the extract, where Brown overhears the conversation between the Deacon and the Minister. As these characters are figures of higher authorities in the church, it is ironic as the reader, together with Brown, expects these characters to exude scrupulousness. Instead, they would “rather miss an ordination-dinner” (26) and partake in “deviltry” (26). They are then, on par in status to sinners, who are shunned in the Puritan community. This comes after Brown`s foundational belief in God is undercut when he finds out his Catechism teacher, Goody Close, is friends with the Devil.

Brown`s belief in Faith is ironic as he uses his wife as a symbolic assertion to his belief. “And Faith below” (26) shows that Brown sees his wife as an embodiment of being a “pious” (26) person. Ironically, it is Faith who later causes Brown`s downward spiral to depression, when he sees Faith`s pink ribbon floating down from the “black mass” (26). Distinctly, it shows that sin is innate in humans and that even those who are deemed to be “pious” (26) are caught within its grasp. Hence, the win-over of evil (Howard 1).

Hawthorne coins “communion” (26) in irony. When defined, it is sharing the same religious faith (Dictionary.com). Instead of a religious affair with God, Hawthorne uses has the Deacon use the term in relation to “deviltry” (26). In using the term “communion-table” (26), the narrator relates Brown`s betrayal to when Jesus reveals the prophecy of his betrayal (Wikipedia). The terms “met” and “seen” shows the way Brown distances and does not partake in any evil activities. However, it is ironic as Brown later succumbs to evil and partakes in it.

The use of a third person limited narrative (SIM SU3-19) leaves the reader in ambiguous purgatory, wondering how accurate the point of view is, in presenting whether what Brown sees is real or is his illusion. Hawthorne interweaves the narrator`s thoughts together with that of Brown’s. The use of the detachment “Once, the listener” (26) takes on the sympathetic tone of the narrator to Brown`s plight, in his inability to now distinguish the “pious and ungodly” (26). This causes the reader to be drawn along into the darkness that only Brown is good, while giving a negative scrutiny of the rest of Salem. In turn; “Night” (26) is then seen as a dominating symbol of the significance pertaining to feeling isolated and contemplating loneliness. Perceived as the only good character, it is ironic that Brown`s final moments with “his dying hour” (30) be full of gloom. The use of similes “like” (26), “as if” (26) and the word “perhaps” (26) creates ambiguity for the reader as we do not know if this is Brown`s attempt to relate the unknown to “familiar tones” (26) to bring some light to the enveloped darkness he is experiencing.  

Hawthorne manages to draw the reader into Brown`s fantasy by appropriating the familiar elements of the nightmarish, through the use of irony and visual imagery. Beneath this extract, which on the surface is merely about a man`s journey through the forest, is an underlying experience of horror and sadness. Hawthorne wavers Brown`s view of his Puritan community, highlighting the idea that of the perennial struggle between good and evil (SIM SU3-21).

Word Count: [986]

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