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Essay on Solitude and Isolation of Hawthorne and Young Goodman Brown

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        In the Nathaniel Hawthorne tale, “Young Goodman Brown,” we see and feel the solitude/isolation of the protagonist, Goodman. Is this solitude not a reflection of the very life of the author?

At the very outset of the tale we see a purposeful secretiveness if not outright deception by Goodman Brown when his wife of three months pleads with him to stay home on this particular night:

"Dearest heart," whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, "pr'ythee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in your own bed tonight. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts, that she's afeard of herself, sometimes. Pray, tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year!"

 

"My love and my Faith," replied young Goodman Brown, "of all nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee. My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back again, must needs be done 'twixt now and sunrise. What, my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou doubt me already, and we but three months married!"

 

Goodman’s secretiveness/deception is an indicator from the very beginning of the tale and the beginning of his married life that he is a loner, an isolationist – one who is not a  naturally gregarious sort of individual.

 

Throughout the majority of the story, Goodman is alone with the devil – veritable solitude. And at the climax of the tale Brown is left totally alone in the middle of the forest:

 

Whether Faith obeyed, he knew not. Hardly had he spoken, when he found himself amid calm night and solitude, listening to a roar of the wind, which died heavily away through the forest. He staggered against the rock, and felt it chill and damp, whil...


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... Jo Kinnick. “Stories Derived from New England Living.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.

 

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Complete Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc.,1959. 247-56.

 

James, Henry. Hawthorne. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997.

 

Kaul, A.N. “Introduction.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

 

Martin, Terence. Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Twayne Publishers Inc., 1965.

 

“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” The Norton Anthology: American Literature, edited by Baym et al.  New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1995.

 

Wagenknecht, Edward. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Man, His Tales and Romances. New York: Continuum Publishing Co., 1989.

 


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