n. hawthorne – young goodman brown


Young Goodman Brown (1835) by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a short story set in 17th century Puritan New England.
One morning young Goodman Brown leaves Faith, his wife and goes into the forest. There he finds the other people living in his town: they are all going to a clearing (=un luogo senza alberi) where a ceremony is taking place. He sees also his wife : they are brought in front of an altar as they are the only two of the townspeople not yet initiated to the forest rite. It seems a black Sabbath to celebrate the devil. Goodman Brown tries to resist and everything disappears.
Back at the village the following day he does not know if he had a nightmare or if it was a real event. He loses his faith in his wife and in the whole community and starts living a solitary life …[…]”And when he had lived long, and was borne (= fu portato) to his grave (= tomba) …they carved (= scolpirono) no hopeful (= di speranza) verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom (= giudizio finale).”
The story is set during the Salem witch trials. Hawthorne’s great-great-grandfather John Hathorne was a judge at that time and Hawthorne always felt guilty (=colpevole) for what his ancestor (= progenitore) had done. For this reason Nathaniel Hawthorn added (= aggiunse) a w to the family surname, Hathorne.
In his works he always tried to question (= mettere in dubbio) about the puritan belief that taught (= insegnava) that man was intrinsically evil in nature and Young Goodman Brown is an allegory about the recognition of evil and corruption of humanity.
Hawthorne gives the characters names that remember their qualities and sins, like in a Medieval Morality Play. At the end the names are seen as a paradox: Goodman Brown loses his wife Faith, his faith in salvation, and his faith in human goodness.

Herman Melville said “Young Goodman Brown” was “as deep as Dante” and Henry James called it a “magnificent little romance”.[9] Hawthorne himself believed the story made no more impact than any of his tales. Years later he wrote, “These stories were published… in Magazines and Annuals, extending over a period of ten or twelve years, and comprising the whole of the writer’s young manhood, without making (so far as he has ever been aware) the slightest impression on the public.”[10] Contemporary critic Edgar Allan Poe disagreed, referring to Hawthorne’s short stories as “the products of a truly imaginative intellect”.[11] One of Hawthorne’s good friends, Herman Melville comments on the underlying depth of the story “you would of course suppose that it was a simple little tale, intended as a supplement to ‘Goody Two Shoes’ Whereas it is as deep as Dante.” [12]
Moderns scholars and critiques generally view the short story as an allegorical tale written to expose the contradictions in place concerning Puritan beliefs and societies. However, there have been many other interpretations of the text including those who believe Hawthorne sympathizes with Puritan beliefs. Author Harold Bloom comments on the variety of explanations; “Young Goodman Brown has been presented as an allegorical revelation of human depravity, as a symbolic study of sexual initiation, as an inquiry into generational conflict, as a demonstration of Puritan hypocrisy, as evidence of Hawthorn’s sympathy towards Puritan society, and even just as an artfully designed short story making no essential reference beyond itself”.[13] Stephen King has referred to the story as “one of the ten best stories written by an American”. He calls it his favorite story by Hawthorne and cites it as an inspiration for his O. Henry award-winning short story, “The Man in the Black Suit”.[14]

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