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Goodman Brown's Epiphany Essay

amymcewen 1 / 4  
Mar 26, 2009   #1
I am wiriting a very last minute essay on Goodman Brown's epiphany. I am well aware that he has one, I am having difficulty describing WHEN. I am thinking that the epiphany occurs when he wakes from his "dream," but I also think that he may have it when he realizes what is going on in the ritual and sees that his wife is a part of it. Would that be an ok question to ask here? These are our instructions for the essay:

Directions: In a clear, coherent, well-supported essay of 4-5 pages (MLA format), analyze the following areas of character development, and discuss the character's growth and change as the r.sult of an epiphany. Points of analysis:

1) the character as we know him or her to be prior to the epiphany,

2) the events that lead to the character's epiphany,

3) the point at which the epiphany occurs, and

4) the result(s) of that epiphany on the character's perceptions of him or her self and/or of the world around him or her.

I just need tocome up with a road map for my essay so that I can crank it out FAST! My sister was in the hospital so I have had to stay there all week and I am without a laptop. Any ideas would be helpful!

EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Mar 27, 2009   #2
I'd say it happens when he loses his Faith, not in God, but in his fellow men. He avoids the mark of the devil which would allow him to know instantly the sins of his neighbors, but because of what he has seen, he imagines everyone is corrupt anyway.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,324 129  
Mar 27, 2009   #3
Okay, so... spend a whole minute in silence with these points of analysis... then, write a paragraph that comes to mind. Paste it below the point of analysis that is seems to go with.

Write another paragraph, and paste it where it seems to go.

Look at what you have written, and at the remaining points of analysis, and you will suddenly get inspired about what parts of the story to write about for another of those points of analysis.

Switch them into a good order.

As you write, use the same words and phrases that they used in their points of analysis.

If you have trouble, look at the points of analysis and go back, read parts of the story some more. Enjoy reading, and you'll enjoy writing. Good luck with your sister!
OP amymcewen 1 / 4  
Mar 27, 2009   #4
Thanks to both of you. I am halfway done... it seems like I am on track. The main problem I am having is that the instructions call for a character analysis (which I am not having a problem with) but she wants us to incorporate the author's theme and tone. To me, it seems like those should be included in an entirely different essay. Or am I mistaken? Any ideas? My sister is now home from the hospital and happy to be home :)
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Mar 27, 2009   #5
Perhaps the way a character develops (in this case Goodman Brown) can be used to by an author to develop a theme? So, for instance, can Goodman Brown stand for humanity in general, or even just the Puritan community of New England at the time Hawthorne was writing? Does his slide into darkness therefore reveal something about the nature of mankind? Does the tone of the story reflect this theme in some way?
OP amymcewen 1 / 4  
Mar 29, 2009   #6
Here is my essay, due today... any proofing would be helpful. Thanks to Sean and Kevin for the advice!

Loss of the Rose-colored Glasses
When deciding to test one's faith, sometimes the age old question of, "Do I really want to know?" is forgotten. Sometimes the testing of one's faith results in a strengthening of it. Other times, the result is opposite and leads to a shattering of faith. Some people grow and others wither. The latter is seen in the story, "Young Goodman Brown," by Nathaniel Hawthorne. A man testing his faith cannot always see the impending danger in doing so. During Goodman Brown's venture into the woods turns his entire view of the world around him is upside down. In leaving his wife, who appropriately goes by the name of "Faith," and venturing into the dark woods, he looses the rose colored glasses that he sees the people around him through. After this life changing experience he is no longer naïve to the presence of evil in the people he knows to be good. Goodman Brown's experience, whether a dream or a reality, changes his view of the world around him for the worst.

Hawthorne allows the reader to see enough of the man before his walk on the dark side to contrast with the character he becomes after his journey. The Goodman Brown who begins this journey is a man of Christian values and possibly blind faith, coming from a strong line of family passing down the same beliefs. These Puritans are not ones who journey into to the dark woods. Goodman Brown tells his companion that they are "a race of honest men and good Christians."(17) He also informs the evil one that he is the first one to take "this path." (17) He insists that it is time to turn back and return home, showing that he does not want to venture too far. Up to this point, Goodman Brown is acting on curiosity. His faith is waning but not completely disintegrating.

Slowly but surely, the occurrences in the woods start to whittle away at the base of Goodman Brown's faith. The companion in the woods takes it upon himself to chip away at one important piece of security in Goodman Brown's faith: the righteousness of his family line and village elders. The elder traveler first discredits the Brown family righteousness by informing Brown that he had taken the same journey with his father and grandfather. Furthering this he says, "They were my good friends, both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path..." (19) Goodman still holds fast to his faith in spite of this by saying that he will feel shame upon 'meeting the eyes" of his minister come the next Sabbath-day. (21) The next curve ball thrown at Brown is seeing the woman who is a prominent figure in his religious background, Goody Cloyse, being friendly with the "devil" companion. As if this is not a powerful enough blow in itself, she describes the devil as taking on the form of Goodman Brown's very own grandfather. (30-31) The next blow comes as he hears the voices of Deacon Gookin and his own minister on their way to a meeting in the darkness. This discovery weakens Brown so that he clings to a tree, "doubting whether there really was a Heaven above him." (45) The final blow to his resolve follows immediately as he hears the voice of his wife Faith among many familiar voices heard in his village, echoing through the darkness of the forest. He cries out to her desperately, and hears nothing but a scream in reply. The ribbon from Faith's bonnet floats down to him from the sky. With this final realization, the rose-colored glasses that Goodman Brown sees the world around him through are gone. The foundation of his faith, the righteousness of those around him, is now a pile of rubble.

Thus begins the final stretch to Goodman Brown's realization that will change his view on good in the world forever. Crazy with melancholy and grief, and devoid of the faith that once kept him grounded, Brown runs through the woods like a wild man taunting the people he now sees as evil. Brown's "inspiration of horrid blasphemy" (52) propels him through the woods until he stands at the outskirts of a ritual. Here, all walks of life come to commune with the devil himself. Here, pious and irreverent stand together to watch the conversion of others to the "Wicked one." This "Shape of Evil," directs the converts to view the congregation, noting that those whom they hold as models of godliness are there to worship him. (64)

In hearing that virtue is only an illusion and wickedness is the only source of happiness, Goodman Brown has a revelation. All of the insight he gains on his journey in the forest, the deconstruction of his faith, reinforces this statement. He is no longer naïve to the evil nature of people, regardless of appearance and deed. His faith in an inherent goodness in the world is now an awareness of an inherent evil.

Regardless of whether or not the venture into the woods and the ceremony he sees there are reality or a dream, Goodman Brown sees the world around him differently from that moment on. He does not lose his faith in God, but his faith in the people around him whom he considers godly. Sadly for him, the two appear intertwined. He appears happier before his revelation of the real darkness in the world around him. Before his journey on the dark side, he sees the people around him as good based on their deeds as "Christians." During his trek through the forest he gains insight into what these people whom he holds on a pedestal are capable of. He feels as if he now knows the true nature of mankind; evil. Upon his arrival into town he snatches a child away from Goody Cloyse as she catechizing her. He compares it to taking her out of the "grasp of the fiend himself." This reference to the "fiend" shows that he sees the presence of the devil in the alleged good Christian people around him. (71) When he ventures out into the night, he parts ways with his wife exchanging a kiss and thinks of her as a "blessed angel on Earth." (7) When she tries to greet him as he is returning, he passes by her with a stern look. He now sees the minister and the congregation as "a blasphemer and his hearers." Listening to the sermons of the "sacred truths" and "saint-like lives" brings him fear that the roof might fall in on them. The signing of the psalms by the congregation is now heard as "an anthem of sin."(72) Goodman Brown's epiphany resulted in no joy. "A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not desperate man, did he become from the night of that fearful dream." (72)

It is the view of this reader that Nathaniel Hawthore's theme in "Young Goodman Brown" is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. When he gets a vision outside of his rose-colored lenses, Goodman Brown goes off the proverbial deep end. Just because there is evil in the world, does not mean that the world is not good as well. Even though people may not be exactly as they appear does not mean that there is some validity in their appearances.

Goodman Brown takes a walk on the dark-side. He does not see the danger in doing so, possibly believing that his faith is strong enough to bring him back. Ironically his faith is what he loses. It is often thought that wearing rose-colored glasses is a bad thing, that knowledge is power. Yet, knowledge does not always bring happiness. The age old saying of "ignorance is bliss," rings true for Brown. While the world has the potential for evil it has the same potential for good.
Mustafa1991 8 / 373 4  
Mar 29, 2009   #7
When deciding to test one's faith, sometimes the age old question of, "Do I really want to know?" is forgotten.

What does, "Do I really want to know?" have to do with the decision to test your faith.
Once you've decided to, haven't you already answered that question for yourself?

I don't understand what you mean there, so you could probably do a better job of explaining it, or make a new opening sentence.

Just on a side note, you use "sometimes" or a variant, 3 times in the first two lines.

"A man testing his faith cannot always see the impending danger in doing so."

Really, you can do a better job of explaining that. I think the man who is testing his faith has some idea of danger; maybe he just doesn't know how much the danger is, or he doesn't anticipate the nature of the danger and the deep effect it will have on him.

"After this life ... he knows to be good."

Are those people still good? That is what you imply. Maybe those are people he once thought were good?

"journey into to the dark woods."

"He insists that... showing that ...too far."

Use better words to describe "showing that..." Maybe it hinted at his initial reluctance at going too far.

"Slowly but surely, the occurrences in the woods"

Replace occurrences to add clarity and diminish awkwardness.

"...curiosity. His faith..."

curiosity; his faith is waning, but not completely disintegrating.

"Slowly but surely, ... Goodman Brown's faith. The companion in the woods ... family line and village elders.

The problem here is that you don't do a good job of introducing the concept that his faith is being stripped away. See, you want to mention the degeneration in his faith, which you do, but you also want to avoid redundancy, and the delivery here counts towards how well your writing is received by the reader. The first sentence doesn't do an adequate job; it doesn't use good enough words, and it is clipped. These two sentences are noticeably backwards, and they will hurt you. It's not good regardless of the circumstances, but more so when you are telling us an important detail. You need to vary these two sentences so they are worth in their own respect, and also make sure to coalesce them into each other.

Here's how I might revise it.

Slowly but surely, the occurrences in the woods start to whittle away at the base of Goodman Brown's faith. The companion in the woods takes it upon himself to chip away at one important piece of security in Goodman Brown's faith: the righteousness of his family line and village elders.

Remember to keep in mind that you said his faith was "waning, but not disintegrating."

So now you want to add the element that some factors are contributing to the increase in the rate at which his faith is becoming unravled.

As Goodman Brown ventures deeper into the woods, due to a series of events, we get a sense that his faith is now capitulating in earnest. Those events as we come to know, are caused by his companion; they rip into a central component of Goodman Brown's faith: the righteousness of his family line and village elders.

I'm going to have to cut it short here.

Just fix the rest of your essay to the tune of these revisions and you should do fine.
OP amymcewen 1 / 4  
Mar 29, 2009   #8
Thank you I went back through it!!

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