Young Goodman Brown And Rappacini's Daughter


 Nathaniel Hawthorne
In Puritan Massachusetts the key word was suspicion. In
order to be accepted, by the community, one had to be a
member of the "elect," destined for a spot in the eternity
of heaven. In order to be a member of this elite group of
"selected" individuals, one had to be free of sin and evil
and never be caught conjuring the devil, as is illustrated
by the horrors of the infamous Salem witch trials. In "
Young Goodman Brown", and " Rappacini's Daughter",
Nathaniel Hawthorne portrays two different ways of
soliciting or being solicited by the devil. The final
scenes in both of these stories, although similar in
nature, are actually conflicting in essence, and show the
two adverse ways in which people and evil can become one.
In " Young Goodman Brown", the protagonist, Goodman Brown
goes off on a typical search for the devil. The devil is
associated with darkness and terror, a creature only to be
sought after while enveloped in the darkness of the night.
As Goodman Brown himself replies to Faith's longing for him
to wait until morning to embark on his journey, "My journey
needst be done twixt now and sunrise" (611). Goodman Brown
knows exactly what he is going to look for; he is
searching for evil. He goes to the forest to do his deed
and "he had taken a dreary road darkened by all the
gloomiest trees of the forest" to get there(611). Goodman
Brown is willingly seeking the devil, and Hawthorne is
throwing in all the stereotypes. This entire search for the
devil is portrayed as being very ugly. What then is pretty?
In " Young Goodman Brown", beauty equals inherent goodness,
or Faith. Young Goodman Brown separates from this
righteousness, for evil. From the beginning, he was
leaving, at least for the time being, Faith behind. "And
Faith, as the wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty
head into the street, letting the wind play with the soft
ribbons of her cap" (610). The beauty of faith and her pink
ribbons are left behind; his intentions are obvious. 

In " Rappacini's Daughter", Giovanni does none of this. He
never went out searching for the devil. All he wanted to do
was study in Padua. The devil was not obvious to Giovanni.
I it went after him, and he did not even know it.
Giovanni's first glimpse of the "devil's lair" is
considerably different of that of Goodman Brown. Instead of
a dreary, dark forest, Giovanni saw Eden, "Water which
continued to gush and sparkle into the sunbeams as
cheerfully as ever. A little gurgling sound ascended to the
young man's window, and made him feel as if the fountain
were an immortal spirit that sung its song unceasingly and
without heeding the vicissitudes around it." (628). Instead
of his first human encounter being with a devilish man with
slithering snake on his staff, Giovanni met the beautiful
Beatrice (614). Beatrice was as beautiful as the devil was
ugly. Giovanni glanced into the garden and "Soon there
emerged from under a sculptured portal the figure of a
young girl, arrayed with as much richness of taste as the
most splendid of flowers, beautiful as the day, and with a
bloom so deep and vivid that one shade more would have been
too much. She looked redundant with life, health, and
energy" (629). In Rappacini's Daughter instead of beauty
equaling faith, it equals the Devil, or the evil that
Beatrice really represented. This is not as clear cut as
Young Goodman Brown. There in order to "be with the devil"
you had to go searching for him/her. In Rappacini's
Daughter, however, the Devil came to Giovanni. Furthermore
he came in the form of a beautiful woman...a frightening

Young Goodman Brown is told in the first person narrative.
It is therefore from one person's point of view. It is a
warning of what could happen to you if you stray from
probity, and your moral ideals. All the decisions were
clearly made by Brown himself, and his plight can be
avoided. Rappacini's Daughter, however, is told in the a
third person narrative. It is not from one person's point
of view, but rather it is a universal problem which has
consequences for the entire human race. The devil does not
always look as he is supposed to, and is not easily
recognizable. He can enthrall you with splendor, rather
than trap you with terror . The devil can get you anyway he
wants; he has agents to do his bidding. As Beatrice
mournfully explains to Giovanni "But my father,- he has
united us in this fearful sympathy" (644). The story is
called Rappacini's Daughter even though Beatrice seems to
be a functioning individual. Should not the story be called
Beatrice? No. Giovanni was tricked as he thought Beatrice
was "a tender warmth of girlish womanhood. She was human"
(638). All Beatrice really represents is Rappacini's, or
the devil's messenger sent to trap the good, unsuspecting
Giovanni, an unavoidable fate. 

Young Goodman Brown certainly knew the difference between
faith and evil. He, however, wanted the best of both worlds
to remain intact. In fact he promises himself that "after
this night I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to
heaven" (611). All he wants is this one night of evil, and
then he will return to the faith, and cling onto his wife.
Brown wants to keep faith and evil as two separate distinct
entities. Giovanni, however realizes that they are not two
separate things, and that you must choose one or the other,
as he says about Beatrice "whatever mist of evil might see
to have gathered over her, the real Beatrice was a heavenly
angel" (643). Giovanni knew that Beatrice could not be both
good and bad so he was trying to decipher what exactly she
was. Similarly with Rappacini's garden there are aspects
which point in each direction. Originally Giovanni had
thought of the plants as beautiful, until he realized that
they were in actuality poison. They had to be one or the
other, there could not be independent elements of both
within the garden. That is why Giovanni had to know whether
Beatrice's breath was poison or beauty. He had to know
which path she had chosen. Brown, however, until the very
end wanted to keep good and evil as two perpetual different
entities and options. As Brown was looking up in the forest
where he was deciding his fate he saw at first what he
wanted. Brown looked up and saw that "The blue sky was
still visible, except directly overhead, where this black
mass of cloud was sweeping swiftly northward" (615). To
Brown this was perfect he could still see his faith but the
black clouds, evil, had temporarily moved in for a quick
but exciting storm. Only when the "dark cloud swept away,
leaving the clear and silent sky above...and something
fluttered lightly down through the air...and beheld a pink
ribbon" did he realize that he was mistaken (614). The
clouds had left, but the ribbons had fallen from the
clouds. Evil had already started over taking faith, they
were intertwined and one had to be the victor.
Goodman Brown wanted to connect with the devil from the
beginning. He did not want to make a complete break from
faith, yet he wanted just to experience a little of Satan's
wonderful pleasures. He was going after the devil who was
painted so viciously in his catechism. The devil which was
worshipped at midnight, in the forest surrounded, by
blazing pines. The devil he was brought up to despise.
Brown came into the final confrontation with Faith from a
forest "which was peopled by frightful sounds, the creaking
of trees and the howling of wild beasts", yet he still
heard "church bells tolling in the distance" (615). He
wanted both but he could have only one, and on this night
nothing was keeping him from the lore of the devil. Goodman
Brown stepped forth from his doubts, he "stepped out of the
shadow of the trees and approached the congregation with
whom he felt a loathful brotherhood by the sympathy of all
that was wicked in his heart" (617). Brown wanted to be
evil now, but to be good later. His encounter with Faith at
the end illustrated this need precisely. "And there they
stood the only pair, as it seemed, who were yet hesitating
on the verge of wickedness in this dark world" (618).
Goodman Brown did not know whether he should commit
himself, as well as his Faith to a life of evil, or if they
should both flee from the altar to the arms of faith. Yet
Brown continued in his desire for two separate distinct
beings in Faith and evil. For now he wanted the evil,
therefore he beseeched Faith crying- "Faith! Faith!... ,
look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one" (618). Brown
thought he had done it. He thought that he had achieved one
night of evil while sustaining his life of peace. All too
soon however, it became clear that his choice of evil was
the only one he would have, as " He would often awaken at
midnight and shrink from the bosom of Faith...for his dying
hour was gloom" (619). This last scene was the portrayal
Goodman Brown's choice of evil and the devil, over faith
and his wife.
Giovanni had no thoughts the likes of Goodman Brown, so his
confrontation with his lover represents something entirely
different. Giovanni knew that good and evil could not
survive side by side. He had decided to try and save
Beatrice, and himself, from evil. Giovanni thought "might
there not still be a hope of his returning within the
limits of ordinary nature, and leading Beatrice, the
redeemed Beatrice, by the hand" (644)? He had no intention
of killing Beatrice. He himself offered to drink the potion
with Beatrice as he says "Shall we not quaff it together,
and thus be purified from evil" (645)? Surely if he knew
that the potion was poison he would not have offered to
drink it. Giovanni did the opposite of what Goodman Brown
did in his final confrontation. Giovanni chose good over
evil yet, "as poison had been life, the antidote was
death", and he too had to give up his love, his Faith, but
through no flaw of his own.
Goodman Brown was not an evil person, just a misguided one.
He felt that his life would not be complete unless he saw
things from both sides of the spectrum. Brown, however did
not want to give up the "good" life for this one minute of
evil. In Puritan society that, one flirtation with the
Devil can cost you everything. Young Goodman Brown
abandoned Faith at the altar and deserved his punishment.
For what, however, did Giovanni deserve his cruel fate?
After all, he had been made eternally evil by Beatrice, who
was now dead, rather than good, which was Giovanni's goal
for her. Besides Baglioni himself states to Giovanni that
"I tell thee, my poor Giovanni, that Rappacini has a
scientific interest in thee. Though hast fallen into
fearful hands" (635). The devil was coming after Giovanni,
it was not his fault. The last scene in " Young Goodman
Brown" shows the generic search for the devil, and Goodman
Brown is supposed to be used as "what not to do" example
for the righteous Puritans. Yet the last scene in "
Rappacini's Daughter" is completely different. It portrays
a man who had to endure great sorrow through no apparent
flaw of his own. This, however, is not the case. Rather in
this last confrontation Hawthorne is pointing out a reason
for the demise of Giovanni, and at the same time rebuking
the always nosy, and homiletic Puritans. Giovanni got in
trouble for being too meddlesome. He had to know whether
Beatrice was good or evil, and that brought about his


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