April 8, 2013
Young Goodman Brown, The Lottery and the Evil of Mankind
It is said that beauty is only skin deep. On the surface, mankind in general appears to evoke a beautiful sense of nobility, a concern for doing what is right and treating your fellow man with respect and honor. This is the aspiration and the stated goal of humanity, however like a disease that starts in the roots of an ancient, noble tree, humanity is cursed with a sickness. The giant tree can look so strong on the surface and yet lurking underneath is something that is diseased and rotten and could fall at any time. What is the nature of mankind? Nathaniel Hawthorne in Young Goodman Brown and Shirley Jackson in The Lottery vividly describe the answer. Though they use slightly different methods and imagery, they both conclude that while on the surface humanity appears proper and beautiful, underneath the skin is the cancer of the reality that we all can be evil. Permeating both stories is the theme that as humans, we will pursue evil, and we are not necessarily who we say we are. We also aren’t what we believe ourselves to be; as Goodman Brown points out that “we have been a race of honest men and good Christians, since the days of the martyrs” (264). The devil quickly points out the Goodman Browns father and grandfather both associated with the devil, unbeknown to young Goodman Brown. Evil can also take place because of tradition, or because it is tolerated as a societal norm. Such is the case of The Lottery. This story lulls the reader in little by little until finally at the end we are stricken with the realization of the theme and shocked by the depravity of humanity; the ability of mankind to both pursue and tolerate evil both individually and in society. Hawthorne shows us that we’re all evil whether we show it on the outside or not and Jackson demonstrates what atrocities can be committed and accepted by society at large. Both...