This essay compares and contrasts the sin in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short stories "The Birthmark," "The Minister's Black Veil," and "Young Goodman Brown."

Topics: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Young Goodman Brown, Mosses from an Old Manse Pages: 4 (1026 words) Published: March 5, 2003
Sin in the Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne

After analyzing several of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short stories, it becomes apparent to the reader that he often wrote using the recurring theme of sin. Though sin is present in all of his works, there is much variation on the ways in which his characters come to understand the inherent evil that lurks inside every human being. Whether expressed in the form of selfishness, passion, or obsession, the sin is somehow masked and concealed from others, and prevents humans from achieving pure goodness (O'Toole). Among Hawthorne's many literary works, "The Birthmark," "The Minister's Black Veil," and "Young Goodman Brown" provide excellent examples in depicting the variances among the common theme of evil and sin.

In "Young Goodman Brown," Hawthorne creates a conflict between Brown and his own acceptance of sin in mankind. In the story, Goodman Brown ventures into the forest, where he meets a man who is described as, "about fifty years old...and bearing a considerable resemblance to him [Brown], though perhaps more in expression than features." (738) Yet perhaps the most significant part of this description is that of the staff this man carried, which, "bore the likeness of a great black snake," (739) leading the reader to assume the man is evil, if not the devil himself.

The devil leads Goodman Brown to meeting place, deep within the woods, where many honorable society members are worshipping evil. Even the minister, who is the closest human to God, is there participating. However, possibly the most noteworthy character in attendance is Brown's wife, Faith, who he previously called, "a blessed angel on earth." (Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown," 738) While Goodman Brown went into the forest with the belief that all of his neighbors were pure and sin-free, he exited with an opposing opinion of them and can no longer look at them the same way he used to. With the statement, "There is no good on earth; and sin is but...


Bibliography: Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Birthmark." The American Tradition in Literature. Ed. George and Barbara Perkins. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1994. 767-777.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Minister 's Black Veil." The American Tradition in Literature. Ed. George and Barbara Perkins. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1994. 751-759.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown." The American Tradition in Literature. Ed. George and Barbara Perkins. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1994. 737-746.
O 'Toole, Heather. "The Blackness of Men 's Souls: Why Nathaniel Hawthorne could not Embrace Transcendentalism." Bridgewater College. 4 Feb. 2003.
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