Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of American literature’s finest writers; his writing style was very distinct and unusual in some aspects. It is his background that provided this ambiguous and complex approach to writing.
Hawthorne’s New England heritage has, at times, been said to be the contributing factor in his works. The Puritan view of life itself was considered to be allegorical, their theology rested primarily on the idea of predestination and the separation of the saved and the damned As evident from Hawthorne’s writings his intense interest in Puritanical beliefs often carried over to his novels such as, Young Goodman Brown, The Scarlet Letter, and The Minister’s Black Veil just to name a few of the more well known pieces of his work. Often he would receive criticism for this unconditional style; Ralph Waldo Emerson, a popular author of the era, once even complained, “ He invites his readers too much into his study, opens the process before them. As if the confectioner should say to his customers,‘ Now, let us make a cake.
’ ”(Emerson 51). Although Emerson may be right in what he said, Hawthorne does seem to “help” the reader create the story in their mind as to what it should be but he doesn’t do it all himself, he simply leaves it up to his audience for their open interpretation. Had Hawthorne followed the advice of his peers to “throw his allegorizing out the window”, he would have lost the essential element on which most of his works are based. The short story that just “screamed” allegory was Young Goodman Brown.
Author Herman Melville once exclaimed, “ …One would suppose that “Young Goodman Brown” was “a simple little tale, intended as a supplement to ‘goody Two- shoes’. Whereas it is as deep as Dante.”(Melville 89)That statement was exactly what I though upon my first read-through of this tale of evil misadventure. Both men Dante and Young Goodman Brown embark on a somewhat spiritual journey and come out of it with an insight that they never possessed before relating to the world and their beliefs. Young Goodman Brown had the allegorical elements similar to Dante’s Inferno with the use of color, ambiguous statements and the representation of objects. An example of this type of ambiguity of language is when the old man convinces Goodman Brown to come with him:“ Let us walk on, nevertheless, reasoning as we go, and if I convince thee not, thou shalt turn back.
We are but a little way in the forest yet” (Hawthorne 615)This statement can be taken one of two ways, either for the literal sense in which the old man is urging him to come or for the allegorical way in which this shows Goodman Brown has a choice in his destiny to make the right decision and turn his back on Satan when he sees God’s way is better. Upon returning home Goodman Brown comes to the realization that all the people that meant most in his life that he believed were righteous, upstanding, God fearing citizens were all guilty of being influenced by the devil. Whether he dreamed this or not what happened to him in the forest changed his life in such a dramatic way that it compels him to live the rest of it out in gloom and despair as evident from this paragraph:“ Often, awakening suddenly at midnight, he shrank from the bosom of Faith, and at morning or eventide, when the family knelt down at prayer, he scowled, and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his wife and turned away.” (Hawthorne 622) This paragraph to me shows a man changed forever and who felt betrayed by everyone. This short work can be taken as advice that we live in total disillusionment and if we knew what other.