Young Goodman Brown And The Minister's Black Veil Analysis

Submitted By cartoon62
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Despite the wide variety of lifestyles and cultures, many would agree some conflicts are universal, although, they can manifest in very different ways. Though wittern by the same author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown” and “ The Minister’s Black Veil”, share many differences as well as similarities. Hawthorne writes each piece differently with varying uses of symbolism, setting, and character development among other aspects. And while their respective themes may seem dissimilar at first glance, they share much more than just an author.

In “Young Goodman Brown” the protagonist, a man named Goodman Brown, gives himself the task of resisting sin to prove his faith. He attempts this by venturing into the forest to seek out the sin he so eagerly wants to overcome with faith. “He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the path creep through, and closed immediately behind.” (380) Here Hawthorne uses the forest to depict an ominous setting, while the gloomy trees that engulf the road symbolize the way sin tries to engulf man on the path to righteousness and faith. The same faith that Goodman Brown must abandon in order to fulfill his quest. And he must not only abandon his religious faith, but also his wife Faith who serves as another symbol of the “righteous path”. While in the forest, Brown meets an old man holding a staff. “ His head being turned back, he passed a crook of the road, and, looking forward again, beheld the figure of a man, in grave and decent attire, seated at the foot of an old tree.” (380) The old man serves as the guide down the path of sin. In this postion the man symbolizes temptation, the intial deviation from the path of a devout Christian. Early on they begin having a disagreement about how faithful Brown's ancestors truly were. " I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman...and it was I that brought your father a pith-pipe knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire, to an Indian villiage..." (381) The old man also goes on to tell Brown how corrupt the people in his town really are, "The deacons have drunk communion wine with me; the selectmen of drivers town have made me thier chairmen...the Great and General Court are firm supporters of my intrests. The governor and I, too-But these are state secrets." (381-382) This exchange, provided it were true in the story, shows a great deal of contrast to the setting Hawthorne chose. During these times, towns and the people were supposed to be extrememly devout and close-knit. That is, there was not supposed to be any sin in any tier of society from regular citizens to the heads of state to men and women of the Cloth. And this is where the conflict and theme come to be: man's eternal struggle with sin, more specifically how man deals with sin. In "The Minister's Black Veil" the struggle between man and sin is also prominent, although in a very different way. The protagonist, the Reverend Mr.Hooper, another man of the Cloth, has had his faith tested. But unlike Brown, we begin the story with Hooper after he lost he battle with sin. "Swathed about his forehead, and hanging over his face, so low as to be shaken by his breath, Mr.Hooper had on a black veil." (390) Hawthorne uses this piece of cloth as symbol in two different way. The veil represents the dark and unknown sin, much like the forest in "Young Goodman Brown". It also represents the Reverend in such an obvious way that it is easy to over look. Members of the church can be called Men of the Cloth. Many icclesiatical memebers wear colors of white to symbolize purity, but here we are given black cloth. This is a very literal representaion of a tainted man of the Cloth. While we are never directly given the source of the sin he commited, it is hinted that he