Good and Evil and Contradictions Research Paper

Good and Evil and Contradictions Between Young Goodman Brown’s Speech And Actions
Working Introduction
Young Goodman Brown snatches a young girl away from his old catechism tutor because he is worried that the old lady will corrupt the young girl (Hawthorne 7). But Goodman Brown himself was just returning from an appointment he had with the devil (Hawthorne 2) and an epiphany that everyone he knew was corrupted by sin . Hawthorne has left us a complicated and nuanced story that many authors argue is a morality tale (Bidney 83), but Young Goodman Brown’s actions and direct statements of value often conflict, and a proper understanding of any moral must decode these often contradictory actions and statements. This requires identifying conclusions the character draws from his realization in the forest, dream or reality, limiting those conclusions to the utterances spoken by the character, and identifying specific actions to compare for consistency with the conclusions the character, but not the reader, draws from that experience.
1. Young Goodman Brown’s actions directly contradict his conclusion about human morality as described in the story, not by modern interpretation but by strictly literal reading of the words on the page.
a. Is Young Goodman Brown allegorical? Some authors argue it is (e.g. Bidney 83 “the relentless recurrence of Hawthorne’s epiphanic pattern will surely make us think anew about his fascination with the subtleties and difficulties of moral allegorizing and his peculiar persistence in the attempt.”)
b. If not then it is either documentary or strictly entertainment
i. If documentary then we cannot argue any more than whether the characters existed or not ii. The story is fictional but even if not verifying whether the character had a dream or not is impossible beyond personal testimony so that line of enquiry can be ruled out iii. Considering YGB pure entertainment with no message or conclusion to be drawn limits analysis to mechanics of style, plot, symbolism and other elements which other critics have accomplished more authoritatively than possible in an undergraduate paper so that line of reasoning too can be dismissed
iv. Therefore that Young Goodman Brown is a moral allegory is the remaining conclusion after these are ruled out.
2. Considering the thesis that Goodman Brown’s actions in the story directly contradict the conclusions drawn by the character after the dream / vision realization entails attempting to define likely, possible or plausible message or conclusion.
a. This will be strictly limited to considering the characters’ literal statements on the pages left by Hawthorne, in to avoid judging actions as good or bad from modern value standpoints perhaps not shared by the Puritans this story describes
b. The “contradictory actions” will be strictly limited to the literal statements on the pages authored by Hawthorne in to avoid evaluation by modern standards perhaps not shared by the Puritans this story discusses
c. Young Goodman Brown seems to come to the conclusion that everyone around him carries the taint of real or potential “sin” or “evil” (Hawthorne 7) which he tries to distance himself from.
3. Considering 2c the working conclusion the character Young Goodman Brown draws given the directly stated evidence that Brown spent the rest of his life “suspicious” and “gloomy” (Hawthorne 8) after the vision related in the story, without interpretation or assignment of value to those terms from modern standpoints,
a. Trying to prevent the Goody Cloyse from corrupting the young girl is not good or bad but inconsistent with a conclusion drawn by Young Goodman Brown (2.c. above)
i. If humans are inherently sinful the little girl is doomed anyway
ii. Preventing this incident will not prevent future incidents of corruption etc.
b. If 2c, then raising a family simply contributes more sinfulness to the world
i. If the character knowingly accepts 2c then adding more sin to the world is itself a sinful action
ii. If the character Young Goodman Brown was convinced every one else was or had the capacity to be inherently “evil” (Hawthorne 7) to some degree, remaining in and adding to the community the character is “suspicious” (Hawthorne 8) of and tried to distance himself from is inconsistent.
4. If these actions are inconsistent with 2c, then there is reason to doubt that Young Goodman Brown (the character only, without drawing any conclusions about Hawthorne or attempting to imply or derive any conclusions about the author’s motive or values) actually believed 2c
i. If the character Young Goodman Brown did not believe 2c, preventing the little girl from talking to Goody Cloyse (Hawthorne 8) becomes consistent because it implies the little girl’s corruption is preventable
ii. If not 2c, then raising a family into a community the character distrusted does not necessarily remain inconsistent if the possibility they are not inherently evil remains plausible.
5. Conclusion
a. Either Young Goodman Brown does not fully believe 2c, in which case his actions become more consistent with one likely conclusion apparently drawn from the actions and direct speech of the characters in the story without any interpretation modern or otherwise, or
b. If Young Goodman Brown believes 2c, his actions (attempting to save the girl; raising a family; et al.) become inconsistent with 2c
c. 5a

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