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Puritan Depravity and Distrust in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown Essay

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Puritan Depravity and Distrust in Young Goodman Brown


         Puritan doctrine taught that all men are totally depraved and require constant self-examination to see that they are sinners and unworthy of God's Grace. Because man had broken the Covenant of Works when Adam had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, God offered a new covenant to Abraham's people which held that election to Heaven was merely a possibility.  In the Puritan religion, believers dutifully recognized the negative aspects of their humanity rather than the gifts they possessed. This shadow of distrust would have a direct influence on early American New England and on many of its historians and writers, one of which was Nathaniel Hawthorne.


The influence of Puritan religion, culture and education along with the setting of his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, is a common topic in Nathaniel Hawthorne's works.  In particular, Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" allows the writer to examine and perhaps provide commentary on not only the Salem of his own time but also the Salem of his ancestors.  Growing up, Hawthorne could not escape the influence of Puritan society, not only from residing with his father's devout Puritan family as a child but also due to Hawthorne's study of his own family history.  The first of his ancestors, William Hathorne, is described in Hawthorne's "The Custom House" as arriving with the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 "with his Bible and his sword" (26). A further connection can also be seen in his more notable ancestor John Hathorne, who exemplified the level of zealousness in Puritanism with his role as persecutor in the Salem Witch Trials.   The study of his own family from the establishment of the Bay Colony to the Second Gre...


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... 40 (First Quarter 1994):  67-88.

Grayson, Robert C.  "Curdled Milk for Babes: The Role of the Catechism in 'Young Goodman Brown.'"  The Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 16 (Spring 1990): 1-5.

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.

Levin, David.  What happened in Salem?  2nd ed.  New York: Harcourt, Brace and World Inc, 1967.

Mather, Cotton.  "A Discourse on Witchcraft."  Levin 96-105.

Murfin, Ross C.  "Introduction: The Biographical and Historical Background."  Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism: Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Scarlet Letter." 
Boston: St. Martin's Press, 1991.  3-18.

Shuffelton, Frank.  "Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Revival Movement."  The American Transcendental Quarterly 44 (Fall 1979):  311-321.


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