Friday, November 8, 2019

The Consequences of Puritan Depravity and Distrust as Historical Context for Hawthornes Young Goodman Brown Essay Example

The Consequences of Puritan Depravity and Distrust as Historical Context for Hawthornes Young Goodman Brown Essay Example The Consequences of Puritan Depravity and Distrust as Historical Context for Hawthornes Young Goodman Brown Paper The Consequences of Puritan Depravity and Distrust as Historical Context for Hawthornes Young Goodman Brown Paper The Consequences of Puritan Depravity and Distrust as Historical Context for Hawthornes Young Goodman Brown by Michael E. McCabe Puritan doctrine taught that all men are totally depraved and require constant self-examination to see that they are sinners and unworthy of Gods Grace. Because man had broken the Covenant of Works when Adam had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, God offered a new covenant to Abrahams people which held that election to Heaven was merely a possibility. In the Puritan religion, believers dutifully recognized the negative aspects of their humanity rather than the gifts they possessed. This shadow of distrust would have a direct influence on early American New England and on many of its historians and writers, one of which was Nathaniel Hawthorne. The influence of Puritan religion, culture and education along with the setting of his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, is a common topic in Nathaniel Hawthornes works. In particular, Hawthornes Young Goodman Brown allows the writer to examine and perhaps provide commentary on not only the Salem of his own time but also the Salem of his ancestors. Growing up Hawthorne could not escape the influence of Puritan society, not only from residing with his fathers devout Puritan family as a child but also due to Hawthornes study of his own family history. The first of his ancestors, William Hathorne, is described in Hawthornes The Custom House as arriving with the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 with his Bible and his sword (26). A further connection can also be seen in his more notable ancestor John Hathorne, who exemplified the level of zealousness in Puritanism with his role as persecutor in the Salem Witch Trials. The study of his own family from the establishment of the Bay Colony to the Second Great Awakening of his own time parallels the issues brought forth in Young Goodman Brown. In looking into the history of Salem and especially early Puritan society Hawthorne is able to discuss the merits and consequences of such zeal, especially the zeal of the Half-Way Covenant of 1662, the Puritan Catechism of John Cotton, and the repercussions of The Salem Witch trials. Hawthorne sets â€Å"Young Goodman Brown† into a context of Puritan rigidity and self-doubt to allow his contemporary readers to see the consequences of such a system of belief. Hawthorne’s tale places the newly wed Puritan Brown upon the road to what may or may not be a true conversion experience. The conversion experience – a sudden realization brought about by divine intervention, a vision, or perhaps a dream – easily translates into the dream allegory of Hawthorne’s work and allows the author to use Puritan doctrine and the history of Salem to argue the merits and consequences of such a belief. Major issues and themes of Puritanism must have been researched and delicately placed into Hawthorne’s discussion of not only past consequences of Puritan zeal but also on the contemporary religious issue of his own time, the Second Great Awakening. Much like the nighttime witches Sabbath that awaits Goodman Brown, the tent revivals of the 1820’s and 1830’s could be seen by the questioning Hawthorne as another attempt by the church to sway its membership towards total obedience and faith. The importance placed on this event by Goodman Brown shows the importance placed on the conversion experience itself. It can be argued that the Half-Way Covenant – itself a means by which Puritanism attempted to hold onto its congregation – as an antagonist cast further doubt onto the later generations of Puritan society. As the second generation of Puritans were born in America they lacked the zealousness of the first. Waning membership within the congregation made what would come to be known as the Half-Way Covenant an attempt by the church to solve this problem. The Covenant allowed the children of church members to be baptized and become part of the congregation, thus bolstering membership. But in order to be a full member and receive communion the conversion experience was still necessary. Much like the â€Å"journey† in which Brown placed so much significance, the fact that further doubt was now placed upon new members of the church would cause later problems in Puritan society and Salem itself. In a further attempt to deal with lack of zeal within the church, church hierarchy controlled not only the congregation’s culture and laws, but also its education. In order to stress the consequences of such an education – one that would teach a child that man was not only suspect but also guilty of depravity Hawthorne would have most likely relied on Puritan educational history as a setting for the newly married Browns self-examination. In the setting of the tale, Brown would fall under the Half-Way Covenant, and his education under Goody Cloyse in part fosters the need within Brown to enter the forest at night and seek the true conversion experience that would allow him full membership. As Benjamin Franklin V states in Goodman Brown and the Puritan Catechism, Hawthorne used John Cottons Milk for Babes as the education source of Goodman Brown. It was the Puritan belief that man must be instructed to realize his own depravity, and therefore at childhood the education began. In order to understand Browns own background as it pertains to his duty as a Puritan, Franklin returns to Cottons original Catechism. Produced by the students at Florida Gulf Coast University under the direction of Dr. Jim Wohlpart.

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