Opposition of Societal Ideals in Hawthorne’s Stories

May 21, 2022 by Essay Writer

Nathanial Hawthorne, in the two different, yet morally similar stories, “Young Goodman Brown” and “Artist of the Beautiful,” displays his opinions on dominant doctrines of society. Hawthorne expresses that the protagonists in each of the stories struggle to succeed within their emotional and social identities as they chose unconventional paths within their societies. Though Brown and Owen are able to succeed individually as they pursue their own ideals, they fail in the eyes of their surrounding societies.The society in “Young Goodman Brown” strictly follows the rules and principles of its religion. To become an honorable Puritan, one is required to always mistrust himself and any others (4). The entire community abides by this Puritan doctrine, which requires that each person undergo a conversion experience in which he acknowledges his internal faults and sins. Brown, a Puritan awaiting official membership to the religion, begins his trial on the conversion experience. As a Puritan, Brown must acknowledge his unworthiness of God’s Grace and constantly reexamine himself to make sure that his sins are not forgotten (1). If Brown gains membership as a Puritan, he will join the rest of his society in living by the Puritan doctrine.Similar to Brown, Owen Warland exists in a society that adheres to the ideals of a specific doctrine. Throughout the course of his career, Owen is the subject of skepticism and scorn as a result of his efforts to create an interpretation of the Beautiful. His passion for creating the Beautiful interferes with his life in a society completely dominated by the utilitarian lifestyle. The utilitarian society follows the ideal that all men strive to produce goods which serve a useful purpose in everyday life. The Utilitarian doctrine is so widely accepted in Owen’s society that even his family hopes “that his strange ingenuity might thus be regulated, and put to utilitarian purposes” (361). Robert Danforth, a blacksmith in Owen’s community, is a direct symbol of the Utilitarian doctrine. As a blacksmith, he produces many useful goods, unlike Owen, who struggles in completing his single invention. Because of Robert’s consistently manufactured goods, society sees the product of his work, and therefore values his utilitarian lifestyle much more than Owen’s lifestyle of creating platonic beauty.Throughout Brown’s journey, he expresses his hesitance in proceeding into his meeting with the devil. At the beginning of the conversion experience, Brown is very ashamed to continue into the forest, in which “‘the devil himself should be at [his] very elbow!’” (27). Brown is fearful that someone may catch a glimpse of him interacting with the devil, showing his shame for going on his conversion experience. Despite all of this concern, he continues forth in the Puritan journey of finding the Satan within himself. However, as Brown reaches the finale of the conversion experience and prepares to become an official Puritan, he cannot accept the Puritan belief that man is always evil. His wife, Faith, is the influence in Brown that keeps him pure of the devil. The innocent pink ribbons that she wears, along with her spiritual name, symbolizes her purity. However, at the end of Brown’s conversion experience, he is shocked to see that Faith is interacting with the devil because he considers her to be the most pure person in society. Nevertheless, Brown resists Satan despite his love for Faith, and he escapes the conversion experience.Though Brown is unsure of proceeding on the conversion experience, Owen suffers a more internal dilemma. He is quite unsure of himself as a person. His progress stalls at moments of depression brought on by his lack of confidence; a brief comment may even put an end to all of Owen’s determination to build his invention. As Annie illustrates, Owen’s “ears are as delicate as his feelings, and you know how easily disturbed they are” (359). Annie is the one force in Owen’s life that provides him with inner stability. A friend of Owen’s since childhood, he believes that Annie holds the key to the completion of his invention and “this young girl possesse[s] the gift to comprehend him, better than all the world beside” (369). Despite the fact that she is the daughter of a man who is critical of Owen, Owen believes that with her support, he could prove his success. However, as Owen learns of Annie’s engagement to Robert, his rival, an internal strength builds within him. This strength leads to an inner development within Owen, allowing him to “[lose] his faith in the invisible, and now [pride] himself” (376).By choosing the unlikely, yet brave decision of exiting the conversion experience, Brown makes it clear that he stands against the Puritan doctrine of his fellow townspeople “reject[ing] the society which has nurtured him” (4). It is clear that this decision makes him a failure in the eyes of the surrounding society because he disregards the most central beliefs of that society (1). Brown is a failure by the standards of society, yet he becomes highly successful at a personal level. Brown defies his peers’ beliefs, knowing that he is the only one to stand up for his personal beliefs. His unlikely decision brings him personal success because he holds the insight of the Puritan principles by which his neighbors live, while he himself lives a life free from Puritanism. Even though Brown lives a dark life “because an anthem of sin rush[s] loudly upon his ear and drown[s] all the blessed strain,” (36), he is relieved that he doesn’t have to continue his life abiding by the Puritan doctrine.Meanwhile, Owen presents his invention to Annie and her new family, and he realizes that he no longer needs Annie’s encouragement to be happy. Owen “glance[s] sidelong at Annie, to discover whether she sympathize[s] in her husband’s estimate of the comparative value of the Beautiful and the Practical,” and he “rises out of the region in which such a discovery might have been torture,” (382). Owen gains a rare confidence within himself that allows him to personally succeed. As he overcomes the utilitarianism principle, he learns to disregard anyone’s opinion but his own. Although Owen succeeds at a personal level, Peter Hovenden, Annie’s father, “bursts into a cold and scornful laugh” symbolizing Owen’s failure in society (385). Because Peter used to be a watchmaker, he is a symbol for the utilitarian society. Therefore, his negativism towards Owen symbolizes society’s disapproval of Owen’s completed creation of the Beautiful. Even though Owen has a finished product of his tedious work, Peter’s mockery expresses that this product is frowned up because it is platonic and does not pertain to the utilitarianism doctrine.As Brown and Owen face like challenges of choosing their personal ideals over the ideals of their societies, they obtain similar results in terms of succeeding. As evident through the characters, Hawthorne displays that although both men are able to personally succeed, they fail in the eyes of their societies. Nonetheless, both of the protagonists overcome dynamic experiences, becoming internally strong and willing to continue forth with the pursuit of their own beliefs.

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