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Romanticism In Young Goodman Brown

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Autor:  anton  01 November 2010
Tags:  Romanticism,  Goodman
Words: 829   |   Pages: 4
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Romanticism and “Young Goodman Brown”

Romanticism was a literary movement that occurred in the late eighteenth century to the mid nineteenth century which shifted the focus of literature from puritan works, to works which revolved around imagination, the beauty of nature, the individual, and the value of emotion over intellect. The ideas of the movement were quite revolutionary as earlier literature was inhibited by the need to focus on society and the rational world it effected. Romanticism allowed writers to be more creative with there stories and to explore an irrational world which before, would have been at the very least frowned upon if not outright rejected. The short story, “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is an example of a romantic work because it showcases the individual over society, exalts emotion and intuition over reason, and keeps a strong focus on nature throughout the story.

A romantic work focuses on the individual and his inner struggles as well as his external conflict. “Young Goodman Brown” accomplished this through the title character whose journey is followed over the course of the story. Though Young Goodman Brown meets many others on his trip, the focus never wavers from him and his internal struggle. For instance, when Goodman Brown witnesses the minister and deacon riding into the wilderness, the story immediately cuts to his reaction to them, “Young Goodman Brown caught hold of a tree for support, being ready to sink down on the ground, faint and overburdened with the heavy sickness of his heart” (pg 6). Every person who passes by him illustrates another individual leaving the confines of society just as Goodman Brown does, but he still has such a vehement reaction to them although he is journeying through the same wilderness as they. His reaction to their passing is also an example of another romantic trait, prizing the emotional over the intellectual.

Another staple of romantic works is the value of intuition, and the emotion side of a conflict to the rational explanation for it. Goodman Brown is confronted throughout the story with situations where he gives a strong, immediate reaction without possible having time to weigh the rational options. A strong example of a rash conclusion occurs when Goodman Brown beholds a pink ribbon caught on the branch of a tree. Because his wife wears pink ribbons, this confirms to him that his wife was in the forest and he responds by declaring, “ ‘My Faith is gone!’ cried he, after one stupefied moment. ‘There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given.’” (pg. 6). He doesn’t try and push down his intuition by considering the possibility that other women wore pink ribbons or another such explanation. A pink ribbon constitutes Faith in the woods, which means she was with the devil, which means there is no good left in the world. Whether he is correct in his assumption or not is unknown, but his emotional reactions to situations makes him a romantic figure.

Nature plays a large role in the romantic work as well. In fact, almost the entire story of Young Goodman Brown takes place inside the forest in the dead of night. The forest in this work is extremely important because of the romantic’s belief that mysticism and the supernatural are wanton to occur in such areas, even thriving. This makes

Goodman Brown’s journey into the forest all the more frightening also, as the supernatural could be anywhere at any time in such a place. Nature doesn’t just represent the mystical in romanticism however. In the essay “On American Romanticism” it is stated that, “Although romanticism tends at times to regard nature as alien, it more often sees in nature a revelation of Truth, the ‘living garment of God,’ and a more suitable subject for art than those aspects of the world sullied by artifice.” (Harmon). Nature also brings out the truth, which lends itself to the idea that Goodman Brown discovered the evil purpose of the townsfolk who hid in a mask of piety. It could also be unveiling the truth about his own insecurities, not only with himself, but also with his wife. In whatever symbolism it lends to the story, nature plays an integral role in any romantic work.

The romantic period in American History was a time where not everything had to be rigid and defined. Events could be supernatural, or even completely up to interpretation on whether they even occurred, such as in “Young Goodman Brown”. It is the continuing focus on the individual, intuition, and nature that defines a romantic work, but for a romantic work to truly be of the time it must include the full use imagination of the author to take the story where one would least expect it. “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is such a romantic work, and it should continue to be well read for many ages and literary movements to come.

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