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Young Goodman Brown Symbolism by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The story “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne relayed the story of a young boy and a family in the woods. He is made to confront the evil inside of him while being surrounded by his loved ones. In contrast, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, written by Flannery O’Connor elaborates on a family vacation quickly turning into something unthinkable. The family becomes face to face with a violent killer who is on the loose. Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and O’Conners’s piece, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” are similar as they both demonstrate the weakness of morals, corrupted innocence, and the sense of fear.

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In “Young Goodman Brown”, the way he is living has been altered by evil. The idea of morals is supposed to rise over the fact of evil to always choose the right path. He is more concerned with how the appearance of his faith comes off rather than how it is internally. Brown’s faith derives its power from others around him, relying on public displays of belief to strengthen his own morality. Without this sense of morality, Hawthorne argues, Brown’s faith is easily deceived. Goodman Brown’s religious convictions are embedded in his assumption that others surrounding him are also religious. His morals lessen tremendously throughout the short story, resulting in him living a miserable life until death. When Brown is approached by the devil, his morals are instantly put into question when he enlightens Brown about his ancestors’ part in the Salem witch trials and the prosecution of the Quakers. In “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, There are two sets of people in ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’, those who know that they are bad people, and those who are bad but still claim in believing they are good. In this story, the grandmother insists on old-fashioned morals and respect. The misfit comes to almost personify this cynicism that the Grandmother dreads by not only defying traditional morals but seeing himself as completely outside of them. The misfit claims that he does not need salvation, unlike the Grandmother. The misfit simply acts how he chooses, without regard for the Grandmother’s imposed morals. In the sense of literary elements, both authors use religion and the scenery of the woods to create Young Goodman Brown symbolism throughout the story.

In the theme of “corrupted innocence”, Goodman Brown compromises his innocence due to his intrinsic flawed nature, which indicates that, whether the woods were a dream or a reality, the loss of his innocence was inescapable. Hawthorne uses allegory to emphasize the theme of corrupted innocence through his wife Faith. Faith’s name is allegorical, as his relationship with his wife, Faith, and his connection with his religious faith are complementary. Hawthorne’s use of the adjective ‘young’ in the title entices on the perception of youth as if it were an interpretation of innocence. Throughout the story, Brown gradually matures as the woods flourished his state of innocence. When Brown begins his journey he does not state what his objectives are to Faith, but he states, “of all nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee”. The journey into the forest is a leap from innocence into maturity.

In “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, loss of innocence was experienced by the grandmother who showed love towards the person who killed her family and was planning to kill her too. The actions and the way of life of the Misfit and Grandmother are essentially due to the truth that they are living in a fabricated reality, wherein the Misfit’s world everything goes with no fear of consequence. In the Grandmother’s case, she can do no injustice because she has a corrupt judgment of what is right. 

The Misfit tells the Grandmother “Jesus thrown everything off balance. It was the same case with Him as with me except he hadn’t committed any crime and they could prove I had committed one because they had the papers on me.” He relates himself to Jesus because of his views on his innocence. The Misfit feels as if he and Jesus are the same because they were both punished for crimes that they did not commit. 

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