Dec 16 2010

Romanticism to Modernism 5

Published by Peter Schneck

Gravestone of John Hathorn, one of the Judges in the Salem Witch Craft Trials, and Nathaniel Hawthorne's Great-great-Grandfather

Gravestone of John Hathorn, one of the Judges in the Salem Witch Craft Trials, and Nathaniel Hawthorne's Great-great-Grandfather

Hawthorne’s story “Young Goodman Brown” (1835) is seen as a central and fairly typical example of his work in general.

This observation certainly pertains in regard to the story’s theme and major concerns, but also to the form in which these are presented and impressed on the reader.

Please read the story and try to answer some of the questions below (you may want to focus on some while only touching upon others).

  • How are the subjects of religion and faith treated in the story? Certainly, Hawthorne is making an argument about Puritan beliefs (especially the belief in good and evil), but do you see some more universal implications of his treatment of faith and belief?
  • What does the story tell us about the relation between the individual and his or her peers? Think about what we discussed in regard to the possible conflicts between individual and society (or collective) versus the need for social acceptance and recognition.
  • We also talked at length about the difference between the novel and the romance – a distinction that Hawthorne explicates in his preface to The House of the Seven Gables (1851). In what way does the short story also make use of the particular strategies of the romance (rather than the novel)? Obviously, Young Goodman Brown’s adventures in the forrest are decidedly more fantastic and supernatural than what happens to  Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter. But does that mean that the short story is simply dealing with the imagination / fancy? In what sense, do you think, can one read the story as the expression of some ‘higher truth’ – and what would that be? (For reference, you may want to look at the said preface and the way Hawthorne defines the novel and the romance – see below!)

You may download the story here: Young Goodman Brown.

And the ‘Preface to The House of the Seven Gables here: Preface.

If you treat all of these aspects in depth I am willing to consider this as the equivalent of two take home exams. If you stick to the two-page maximum shorter version this will count as one.

Please indicate in your e-mail which option you are taking, and also how many exams you have already handed in (including this one). If you have completed all your assignments, you may ask for a preliminary evaluation as to your final grade. This will give you the opportunity to ameliorate your performance by handing in another assignment should you desire to do so.

All the best for the holidays, and I am looking forward to seeing you all back in class in January!

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