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Young Goodman Brown


Nathaniel Hawthorne
The same event, or chain of events, can be seen in
different ways through the eyes of different people. This
is perfectly illustrated by comparing the stories
"Rappacini's Daughter" and "Young Goodman Brown", both by
Nathaniel Hawthorne. In both these stories there are
similar events with similar figures involved. The two
scenes both have a dialogue between lovers. The results of
the scenes are also very similar. In both, the person who
was formerly thought of as evil turns out to be pure and
good, and the person who was formerly thought of as pure
and good ends up being evil. The tables are turned.
However, in one story, the person who comes out on top is
the good person, while in the other story the evil person
comes out on top. The way the lovers see each other leads
to the way that the reader views them. It's as if the
reader is placed into the argument.
In "Young Goodman Brown" the two characters involved are
Goodman Brown and his wife Faith. At first we think of
Faith as a "blessed angel" as signified by her general
innocence and her pink ribbons. Contrasted to her is
Goodman Brown, who is about to embark on his "present evil
purpose". However, their images of each other change in
their confrontation. This meeting takes place in a dark
forest, as they are about to be accepted into the evil
community of those around them. Goodman Brown is seen as
innocent in this scene when he cries "Faith! Faith!...look
up to heaven and resist the wicked one." On the other hand,
in their only other meeting we know about after that scene,
Goodman Brown looks disdainfully upon his wife, causing the
reader to feel the same way. This escalates to the point
where he even "passed on without a greeting" to his beloved
wife, making her the evil one of the two.
The exact same chain of events occurs in "Rappacini's
Daughter" (in a similar setting). At first Beatrice is
believed to be the "accursed one" and a "poisonous thing".
Giovanni is the good one comparatively. This is shown by
Beatrice's quote: "I, it is true, am the horrible thing
thou namest me. But thou what hast thou to do." However,
things change by the end of the conversation between the
two lovers (which takes place in the garden, surrounded by
evil plants). This is most simply put by Beatrice's remark
to Giovanni, "Oh, was there not from the very first, more
poison in thy nature then in mine?" It turns out that
although on the outside Beatrice is evil and Giovanni is
good, on the inside Beatrice is the pure one and Giovanni
is bad.
The difference is the way in which one views the outcome of
these two scenes. The way a person sees an outcome of an
argument depends on through which character's point of
view it is seen. The outcome of an argument is always a
change in the feelings of a person. In these two stories
the reader sees the scene through the eyes of the main
character, or the character on whom the story focuses and
never has a scene without. Although our view of the
characters comes from both of them, we can only see the
feelings of the main character, to whom we feel, in a
manner, attached to. In "Young Goodman Brown" the reader
sees the story through the eyes of Goodman Brown, the main
character. His role in the story is the lover who begins as
evil and ends up being good. On the other hand, in
"Rappacini's Daughter" the main character is Giovanni, and
we therefore see the confrontation through his eyes. In the
story he is the person who starts out as good and ends up
being evil. The effects of this fact don't take place until
after the confrontations. Goodman Brown, the person who
ends up being good has a horrible end to his life and "his
dying hour was Gloom". With Giovanni, the person who ends
up being bad, the reader has the feeling that he is the
person who ends up losing from the confrontation. This is
because he is the one who is left by his lover, while his
lover leaves for a place that she wants. She says that she
is going to a place where "evil...will pass away like a
In these quarrels between lovers, the person who ends up
being good is the equivalent of the person who is justified
in a real life fight between lovers. Yet we see that no
matter from whose point of view we see the story, the other
person always seems to come out on top. So the moral is
that no one truly benefits from a fight between lovers. In
these stories, both the person who is in the end good, or
justified (Goodman Brown), and the person who ends up being
evil, or unjustified (Giovanni), seem to themselves to be
the losers in the end. Therefore, if this is applied to our
lives, we see that whether we are justified or not, we will
seem to ourselves to be the losers of an argument.


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