The Dichotomy of Self Reliance and Conformity

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The Dichotomy of Self Reliance and Conformity

The late 18th Century in American history was dominated by an era of emotional and individualistic values of oneself, and a powerful sense of limitless possibilities. This was the Romanticism Period. An incredible number of miraculous masterpieces were contrived during this period of enlightenment, including Nathaniel Hawthorne’s dramatically thematic and ambiguous short story, “Young Goodman Brown”, as well as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s intriguingly influential and uplifting essay, “Self-Reliance”. Hawthorne’s writing aspires to implicate theories and themes about the reality of the world we live in and to illustrate our individual limitations through the art of symbolism and irony. Emerson uses
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Goodman Brown did the complete opposite. He immediately condemned his father and grandfather once his accompanying traveler argued that they too had sinned, leading him to loose faith in goodness. In support of Emerson’s ideology of trust, Hawthorne allows his readers to assume that Goodman Brown’s lack of personal trust is what leads him to isolation.
Hawthorne uses the idea of Goodman Brown’s journey in the form of a dream as a means to establish uncertainty in the mind of the reader. For the same reason, the narrator poses the question, “Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting?” (111). Hawthorne leaves this question unanswered to show that it does not matter if Goodman Brown’s experience was real or a dream, but what matters is how it impacted him. According to Emerson, people must trust themselves before trusting others. One must have confidence in his or her own abilities. Goodman Brown completely shunned everyone around him and isolated himself from his community, and although Emerson believed that conforming to society scatters one’s individual self, he would not have approved of isolationism.
As expected, Emerson and Hawthorne clearly had different views about American culture and society. Emerson viewed America as a new and innocent country with a clear slate, unburdened by previous

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