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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 years of shared human companionship were contrasted by the following twelve years of self-imposed isolation spent in the upper floor of his mother's home in Salem, trying to master the art of writing. It was during those twelve years of isolation, while researching local New England history for background use in his fiction, that Hawthorne made a startling discovery. His 17th century paternal ancestors, whom he had assumed to have been yeoman farmers or seafaring men, had been illustrious founders as well as political and religious Puritan leaders of Salem. "Young Goodman Brown" was influenced by this Puritan heritage; by Hawthorne's personality which had acquired a skeptical, dual-outlook on life; and by Hawthorne's mental and moral beliefs thathe revealed. Hawthorne struggles with his own morality within his own biographical framework in "Young Goodman Brown."

Hawthorne viewed his Puritan ancestors with a mixture of pride and guilt. He felt pride in seeing the history of his own family inter...


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...: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971.

Canby, Henry Seidel. Classic Americans: A Study of Eminent American Writers from Irving to Whitman. New York: Russell and Russell, 1939.

Donaldson, Scott and Ann Massa. American Literature: Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century. New York: Harper and Row, 1978.

Fogle, Richard Harter. Hawthorne's Fiction: The Light and the Dark. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1952.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown." 1835. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter et al. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Lexington: Heath, 1944. 2129-38.

Johnson, Claudia D. The Productive Tension of Hawthorne's Art. University: U of Alabama P, 1981.

Turner, Arlin. Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Biography. New York: Oxford UP, 1980.

Ziff, Larzer. Literary Democracy: The Declaration of Cultural Independence in America. New York: Viking Press, 1981.


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