Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hawthorne's Break from Puritianism

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Although HawthorneÕs �Young Goodman Brown� was written during the end of the PuritanÕs grasp on American culture, their beliefs are shown throughout the story. HawthorneÕs insights come not from his own beliefs but those his ancestors had towards obedience, religion and conventional morality. �Young Goodman Brown� gives insight to the cultural values of the early 1800s and the authorÕs own struggle with his faith. �Such a term as �religious freedom,� for example, did not mean for Puritans the unrestricted choice among varieties of worship or non worship as we take for granted today. Rather it meant the opportunity to enforce in a whole community, unchallenged by the English Church or king, their particular forms of Puritan worship� ( Porter, Terrie, Gordan 18).

The Puritans held many religious beliefs dealing with obedience, morality, and hierarchy but they truly focused on three �blue laws� (laws based on church ideas). The Absolute Sovereignty of God says that the Puritans believed that God is all - mighty and asserts His influence in every part of human life. Original Sin and Total Depravity says that Puritans believed man to be naturally evil and depraved. Each child was taught that man was born evil from the New England Primer, �In AdamÕs fall/We sinned all.� The last of these Puritan beliefs is Predestination and Unconditional Election which says that manÕs fate, through AdamÕs fall, is now predestined by God. Man canÕt achieve his salvation by doing good; he must instead wait, hoping that God will choose him for salvation from other flawed souls.

Puritan belief was centered around these three �laws� conforming the early American culture into their own. When �Young Goodman Brown� was written, Hawthorne chose to question those laws that had been instilled in his family for generations. He suggests to the readers of the that time that maybe they arenÕt born in sin and that what they do in life does matter. During the time it was written, around 186, America was going through major changes

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as a culture. Minority groups of women and blacks were fighting for civil and legal rights, the

railroad had become an important tool for travel and Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe and Ralph Waldo Emerson were important writers of that time, who spoke for the new ways of transcendentalism.

America was also moving out of an instilled tradition of Puritan belief. Due to this change of values, Hawthorne seized an opportunity to wake up New England with �Young Goodman Brown.� Through this story Hawthorne is able to show readers the innocence of a man who after witnessing evil in the flesh is no longer able to even squeeze joy out of life. The author dared to write of a fate of a man that was not textbook. From beginning to end the reader witnesses that Goodman Brown is starting to lose whatever faith that he had to begin with. In the beginning Brown is asked by the devil why he was late and he replied, �Faith kept me back awhile� (Clayton 76). The underlining of this quote could easily say that not his wife Faith but instead his conscience and his own faith in God kept him. Later, after meeting with Goody Cloyse and the minister and Deacon Gookin, he screams into the forest for his �faith� and proclaims, �My Faith is gone! There is no good on earth, and sin is but a name. Come, devil! for thee is this world given.� (80) In the end Brown cries �Faith! Faith! Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One!� (8) Whether or not his Faith betrayed him or not, young Goodman Brown will never know. What now lies in his heart is opposite of every Puritan manÕs upbringing that through GodÕs forgiveness, man can be saved. Goodman Brown believes now that he is eternally damned to hell. His innocence was lost, and he was not able to save his own fate. HawthorneÕs view of life in this story focuses more on the effects of a personÕs decisions. W hat you do in life is important, you are judged by your actions.

Hawthorne used the changing times of America to express his own feelings towards Puritanism when writing �Young Goodman Brown.� The story dares to focus on topics that the

respectful, industrious scholars of 17th century Puritans would have never thought of.

Conditioned of the three blue laws of Puritanism, many Americans had the same mind set about religion as Hawthorne. He then chose to breakaway from this conditioning and showed a new way to get to God. �Young Goodman Brown� is a story about the never-ending battle of good and evil and one manÕs journey into the unknown. Before the story was written, many New England natives had not yet taken this journey due to the constricting values of Puritanism. With the changes America was going through, the break from Puritanism and this haunting tale these natives begun to question their fate and the fate of their fatherÕs. �Young Goodman Brown� will forever challenge the mind of anyone who calls themself a religious person and the worldÕs current battle of religion can only add to its power.

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