Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” are Although written in a different setting, genre, and gender of each main character, the similarity of the style and meaning both stories convey makes it worthy to view them at a similar perspective and interpretation of underlying message each author communicates to their readers.
Young Goodman Brown is set in 17th century Salem where Christianity is the townfolk’s way of life. The story opens with Goodman leaving his house and his wife, Faith, to meet an enigmatic figure deep in the woods who will be accompanying him for an alleged “meeting” with a few town folks. His companion, enigmatically portrayed indeed, exhibited some indications that he might be a physical personification of the Devil in the story. As their conversation proceeded, we find that this presumption might be the case as the meeting that will be taking place is an initiation to a certain group of occultic nature.
Several folks, including those whom he recognize as proper Christians, are present including his beloved Faith.
Close before being initiated, Brown finally overcome his fear and cried to his wife to “look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one.” Immediately he found himself alone in the woods again. Brown ended up a paranoid and bewildered man even towards his wife and was buried in a tomb bearing “no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom.”
On the other hand, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, is a contemporary story set in the later half of 1960.
Connie, our protagonist, is a beautiful and typical modern teenage girl who is somewhat self-centered and detests people who don’t meet up with her standards, physically and socially. The highlight of the story tells us of a mysterious stranger in a gold jalopy, Arnold Friend, together with an equally mysterious friend, paying a visit to Connie to force her to go with them for a ride on his car.
Similar with the old fellow in “Young Goodman Brown”, Arnold also possesses qualities of evil although in a more symbolical way than the other story.
The story ended ambiguously when Connie finally subdued to Arnold’s persuasion and sees herself leaves their house’s front porch and meekly goes with him to “much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it.”
The Dilemma of Transgressing One’s Own Standards
The incredible ability of man to distinguish between what is good and what is not is one of the greatest mysteries of mankind. It is somewhat embedded into us at birth, thus, we call it a soul, or for the doubtful, the conscience or maybe the ego. We tend to oppose within ourselves whenever we are confronted with situations that contradict this preprogrammed wisdom.
In our stories, both characters are placed in a situation where their concept of good and evil is being challenged: Brown, on his strongly-held religious belief and Connie on morality at a tender age.
We can clearly see that both Brown and Connie are in a situation where they seem to have no choice but to surrender to their tormentor ‘s desire. Whether they adhere or not, their natural tendency to oppose what they perceive as evil will continually challenge their action and the result is inner turmoil, a constant self-reproach lasting for an indefinite period of time. The mind will continue to oppose until one of the two following cases happens:
- the person forgets about his self-transgression, or
- the person adapts his standard to suit this transgression.
The first is likely to be employed on occasions where the transgression is minor and further recurrence is unlikely. The second one is adaptation and is often used in order to trick the mind that doing such action is reasonable and within the acceptable range of “the good side”, therefore, moral.
Wikipedia.org. Last modified on 23 October 2008. Young Goodman Brown. Friday, October 24, 2008, from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Goodman_Brown.
The Literature Network. Date Unavailable. Young Goodman Brown, Friday, October 24, 2008, from www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/158/
American Literature Research and Analysis Web Site. Date Unavailable. Nathaniel Hawthorne “Young Goodman Brown”, Friday, October 24, 2008, from itech.fgcu.edu/faculty/wohlpart/alra/Hawthorne.htm
Wikipedia.org. Last modified on 21 October 200. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Friday, October 24, 2008, from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Where_Are_You_Going,_Where_Have_You_Been%3F
A Work in Progress. Date Unavailable. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Friday, October 24, 2008, from danitorres.typepad.com/workinprogress/2008/05/where-are-you-g.html