Analysis of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”

William Sloane Coffin stated that “Faith isn’t believing without proof, it’s trusting without reservation.” What he means by this is that you don’t need proof to have faith. Faith is like an intuition. You just know and you never let it fall. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” talks about a man who let the devil shake his faith. Young Goodman Brown was weak as well as his faith.
The story starts with Goodman Brown stepping out into the night, with his wife, Faith, troubled with dreams and fear. He tells her “My love and my Faith, of all nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee (405).” He assures her that he must go on this journey but will be back by sunrise. Faith replies, “Then God bless you, and may you find all well when you come back (405).” At the beginning of his journey, he worries of his wife, with her talking about dreams she is afraid that something is going to happen, and not for the better. He then shakes the feeling off telling himself that she is “a blessed angel on earth, and after this one night I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven (405).” In the beginning of his journey he is not afraid. He tells himself that this has to be done and once it’s done he will go back to his life the way it was before.
Young Goodman Brown fears that the devil may be walking alongside him. He thinks to himself that “the traveler knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead (405).” He fears of a devilish Indian as well. Soon a man seated at the foot of an old tree awaits Goodman Brown. As Brown approaches, the mysterious man stands up and walks alongside him. The unknown man says “You are late, Goodman Brown.” Brown then states that “Faith kept me back awhile (406).” The mysterious traveler bares a resemblance to Goodman Brown himself, but he puts that off as a coincidence. The traveler carries with him a staff that bares a resemblance to a black snake. Brown starts to panic and wants to turn back, but the traveler says that if he cannot convince him to stay later then he may turn around and go home. He is beginning to be filled with regret, saying that he is the first of his family to go on an adventure such as this. They are devout Christians and he feels shameful that he is the first to do this. On the way to their destination, the two meet up with a few people from Goodman Brown’s town. He did not realize that the minister was actually a witch. Also, he meets a christian woman from his town, who is also revealed as a witch. The devil has played tricks on him and convinced him that his wife has turned evil. the story ends years later down the road, showing Young Goodman Brown as gloomy, suspicious, and the opposite of what he used to be.
A commentary piece from Herman Melville talks about how the blackness of Nathaniel Hawthorne made this story come alive. “But with whatever motive, playful or profound, Nathaniel Hawthorne has chosen to entitle his pieces in the manner he has, it is certain that some of them are directly calculated to deceive-egregiously deceive- the superficial skimmer of pages( 931).” what Melville means by that is that the title “Young Goodman Brown” is a deception towards what the story is actually talking about. He states that “you would of course suppose that it was a simple little tale, intended as a supplement to ‘Goody Two-Shoes’ (931).” The story talks about a man who let his guard down and played with the devil, but the title of the story make you think something totally different.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is a tale of weakness in faith, and how that weakness can be manipulated into something terrible. The will of man is strong, and at times, weak. The historical influence of this story could be narrowed down to the Salem Witch Trials, where true evil reigned. Innocence was taken during that period in time, but it was not that of witches, but if the devil himself, taking the innocence of young girls and women and making them suffer for his wrongdoing. Faith is not easily shaken if one is strong enough to hold on to what is rightfully theirs.

Works Cited
Charters, Ann. “Young Goodman Brown.” The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Boston: Bedford Bks St Martin’S, 2015. 405-14. Print.
Charters, Ann. “Blackness in Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”” The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Boston: Bedford Bks St Martin’S, 2015. 928-32. Print.


War: The Unknown Enemy

War is encompassed with a mix of emotions: fear, excitement, anger, and despair, among other things. It can tear apart a man in a matter of days, weeks, and months. In Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” and Sayrafiezadeh’s “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy” are similar because of the emotional and physical baggage they carry, the communication between their love interests back in the states, and the killings in which they participate in.

In Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” the setting is based in Vietnam between the late 1950’s to the late 1960’s. The men are weighed down physically with equipment, but the war has weighed them down emotionally. The phrases “The things they carried” and “What they carried” are repeated throughout the story. On page 665 in the beginning of the second paragraph, O’Brien talks about the various weapons and equipment they carried varied by necessity. In the later part of the story he starts to mention the things they carry emotionally and psychologically. He mentions on page 677, “It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do.” From that point on, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, the main character of the story, decided that he was going to dispose of the personal items he carried, and commands his soldiers to do the same. It was no longer the time for them to sit and moan about their personal problems, it was time to be soldiers. In “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy,” the main character, Luke, opens the story about “The Hill,” and how they were told that the enemy was waiting for them over that hill. All they needed to do was build a bridge to reach the hill. For months they worked on that bridge, and each day they would think about the hill, and what was really behind it. Their sergeant told them that there would be eight hundred and eighty waiting for them. He and his squad knew that it had to be true because it was a very specific number. “Yet the moment we stepped off the bridge and faced the hill we knew we had entered into no man’s land. We had colluded in our own demise.” They feared the worst. They thought that they would be entering into danger, but when they finally finished the bridge, they walked up the hill only to find an endless amount of space, not the eight hundred and eighty looking for them. They had all worked for nothing, and that is what they will end with. Nothing.

These two stories carry emotional tolls on each of the characters. For Lieutenant Cross, he carries the emotions of his squad and his feelings for Mary. For Luke, he carries the emotions of fear and emptiness. Luke carries the emptiness because he is leaving his tour having accomplished nothing. He will go back to his old job having done nothing to move him forward. “The truth was that none of us had joined for the right reasons (801).” He carries that with him. He joined because he would get a head start on his career, but leaving the Army proves to him that he came in learning nothing and he is leaving having learned nothing.

“The Things They Carried” is full of the emotions the men carry. For Lieutenant Cross, it’s the feeling he has for Martha, a girl he knows back in the States. Back then, there was no such thing as email, so soldiers communicated with their loved ones by letters. He wrote letters to Martha, hoping she would catch on that he loved her and that she loved him back in the same way, but she did not. He carried her with him right until one of his men died. Ted Lavender, one of his men, was shot by the enemy, and his men were having a rough time dealing with his death. That’s when Cross decided to man up and make his men hide their emotions so it doesn’t get in the way of what they came to do. He realized that it was just a dream of his to be loved by Martha, and the lives of him and his men were at stake so he needed to put her behind so he as well as his men can live. In, “A Brief Encounter” there is a tumultuous amount of flirting between Luke and Becky, his love interest. This story is based in a more recent setting with email, and that is how soldiers communicate with their loved ones now. The two would email back and forth. Becky would always put ‘xoxo,’ meaning hugs and kisses, at the end of all of her emails to Luke, and he didn’t know what that meant at first.

“She ended her emails with ‘xoxo***.’”

“What’s that mean?” I asked one of the guys.

“Hugs and kisses,” he said.

“But what do the asterisks mean?”

He didn’t know (797).”

The boys where Luke is stationed at have not seen much action, so there wasn’t anything to talk about between him and Becky. He would talk about everything they had where he was stationed, and then he would ask what was going on back home. Where there was hope for Luke with Becky, there was none for Lieutenant Cross.

Killing a human being, regardless if they are a threat or not, can take a toll on a person. There have been countless men who speak of the first time they ever killed a human being. They all say that their face stays with you for the rest of your life. Luke’s sergeant told them that the enemy was waiting for them over the hill. When they found out that there was nothing, they got bored quick. Two days before Luke’s tour was to end, he took a mandatory watch down the path through the hill. He came across an unidentified moving object about a mile away. At first, he didn’t know what it was, but he soon figured it out. It was the enemy. Luke studied him for a little bit, then pressed the trigger on his gun. “Poof. The gun vibrated gently with its message. He stumbled and fell face first onto the ground. It happened so quickly that I thought he must have tripped over something. Surely it couldn’t have been because of me. But, no, a small pool of blood began to form under him as he lay there (804).” Luke seems shocked by what he has done, but he keeps his emotions inside. He will go home in two days having accomplished nothing. In “The Things They Carried.” Lieutenant Cross chose to accept the blame for Ted Lavender’s death. Death changes a man. For Lieutenant Cross, it turned him into a stricter leader. He was going to start cracking down on his men. “He was now determined to perform his duties firmly and without negligence (677).” He does not want his men to linger on the thought of Lavender’s death. He wants them to move on, because that it what they have to do in order to survive. “It was very sad, he thought. THe things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do (677).” He forgot the thought of Martha, and everything he ever thought about her. He would start to distance himself so his men won’t feel vulnerable and hopeless if anything happened to him. They needed to survive. The men in each story cannot let what they have experienced get in the way of their success in the military and in civilian life, no matter if it is the case of them killing someone or someone killing their own. They have to man up and move past it. Not forget the killings, but to accept them and move on.

“A Brief Encounter with the Enemy” and “The Things They Carried” are similar in the way that both characters are weighed down mentally and physically. They are in war zones, and that alone can make a man go mad. The emotions they carry guide their every move. The lives of their men is on their shoulders, and they need to find a way to carry the throughout the war. The stories are similar because of the emotional and physical baggage they carry, the communication between their love interests back in the states, and the killings in which they participate in. They are battered men, but they refuse to let what they have or haven’t experienced get in the way of moving on.

Works Cited

O’Brien, Tim. “The Things They Carried.” The Story and Its Writer. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin, 2011. 664-677. Print.

Sayrafiezadeh, Said. “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy.” The Story and Its Writer. 9th Ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin, 2011. 795-805. Print.

The Demands of A Mother

In Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds,” a Chinese American woman recalls her childhood battles between her and her mom. She tells of her mom’s struggles to make her daughter into someone outstanding and talented for the world to see, someone that she is not. The young girl is fighting a losing battle, because her mom will do anything to get her to become a star, a prodigy, and when she finally defeats her mom, it was not the outcome she expected.

The story starts out talking about how her mom “believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get good retirement… You could become rich. You could become instantly famous (821).” When the girl was nine, her mother said she could become a prodigy, meaning she was going to whether she liked it or not. At first her mother had trouble figuring out what she wanted her daughter to become. She thought she could become a Chinese Shirley Temple, but trying to make her hair look like Shirley’s proved to be a disaster, so her mother abandoned the idea of becoming the next Shirley Temple. Even after all of that, the daughter started to get excited about becoming a star. She would be perfect. Her mother and father “would adore” her. She states “I would never feel the need to sulk for anything (821).” Her mother would go through books with stories of kids who would do the most amazing things. “She brought out a story about three year-old boy who knew the capitals of all the states and even most of the European countries (822).” Her mother would quiz her on the capitals of countries and states, even though she only knew one capital, which was in the state she lived in. After seeing her mother’s disappointed face countless times, she states that something inside of her started to die.

She started hating the tests her mother made her do every night. Her mother had high hopes and expectations, but would be disappointed each time because her daughter just couldn’t perform the way she wanted her to. “I looked in the mirror above the bathroom sink and I only saw my face staring back-and that it would always be this ordinary face- I began to cry… And then I saw what seemed be the prodigy side of me- because I had never seen that face before… the girl staring back at me was angry, powerful… I won’t let her change me… I won’t be what I’m not (822).” She sees herself for what she truly is, ordinary. She figures out that she will never live up to her mother’s expectations, and she will try hard to become ordinary. The daughter soon tries to stomp the high expectations out of her mother, until one day her mother starts to give up hope. The final straw is pulled when her mom forces her to play piano. After weeks of endless playing, her mother enters her in a talent show at their church, and when she plays in front of everyone, she fails miserably, and her and her mom have the final showdown that ends in victory for the daughter, even though her mother gets hurt by the daughter’s victory.

Years pass by, and eventually her mother forgives her for hurting her by offering her the piano her parents had bought for her. At first she doesn’t take it because she doesn’t want to let her stubbornness go. “After that, every time I saw it in my parents’ living room, standing in front of the bay windows, it made me feel proud, as if it were a shiny trophy I had won back (828).” She had finally made her mother proud of her.

Even though her mother was disappointed in her when she was a child, her mother eventually learned to accept her for who she was. It was when she stopped trying that her mother learned to become proud of her. After her mother passes away, she finds out that she had learned something after all. After all those difficult practices and arguments, she becomes the successful daughter, even though she is not famous.

Work Cited
Tan, Amy. “Two Kinds.” The Story and Its Writer. Compact 9th ed. Ed. Ann Charters. Boston:Bedford/St. Martin’s, 354-67.