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Morality and Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown Essay

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"Young Goodman Brown" was published in 1835, when Nathaniel Hawthorne was 31 years old. Hawthorne was born and reared in Salem, Massachusetts, a village still permeated by its 17th century Puritanism. When he was four, Hawthorne's father died, and from that point on he was surrounded mostly by females: two sisters, a maiden aunt, and a retiring mother who was not close to her children. He had little contact with his deceased father's family, but his maternal relatives were supportive and saw to it that he attended college, the first in his family to do so (Turner 33). During four years at college, despite his reclusive nature, he established close friendships with his male classmates, several of which he maintained for life. These four…show more content…
On the other hand, he felt guilt for his ancestor's part in witch trials and intolerant prosecution of Quakers. In "Young Goodman Brown" the devil tells Brown that "I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly" (Hawthorne 2131). Historians of Hawthorne's day were harshly critical of the witch trials and inflexible Puritan ideology of the 17th century. Many current publications and lectures condemned the cruel intolerance of Puritans, and Hawthorne anticipated reader interest as an added incentive for using his Puritan heritage as a background for his work. "Hawthorne's fullest display of witch lore is in one of the first tales he wrote, 'Young Goodman Brown"' (Turner 67). When Brown marveled that Goody Cloyse, who had taught him his catechism was in the forest after dark (Hawthorne 2131), he referred to an historical witch.

Hawthorne had a skeptical, dual-outlook on life. By the time “Young Goodman Brown” was published he had chosen to spend approximately one-third of his life in self-imposed isolation. Though he chose isolation, it was entirely contrary to his beliefs. Hawthorne believed society to be all-important. During his college years, associations with people and exposure to current ideas convinced him of the need for social responsibility and humanistic concern (Johnson 35). Hawthorne felt that the human self has meaning and value only through reciprocal
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