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The Image of Sin in Young Goodman Brown and The Minister's Black Veil

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Nathaniel Hawthorne was a Romantic and Gothic writer who wrote short stories and novels. His ancestor was a judge known for harsh punishments. Hawthorne did not want to be associated with those types of people, so he changed the spelling of his last name. Examples of his short stories are “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Minister’s Black Veil,” and “The Birth-Mark,” sin is a prominent theme in all three of these. Sin is when a person commits a crime against God; it is breaking God’s rules, The Ten Commandments, which he put in place to protect individuals. Sin hurts the sinner and other people for selfish or false reasons. Therefore, individuals obsessed with sin results in isolation. 

In “Young Goodman Brown” Goodman Brown, the protagonist, lies to his wife, Faith, about the purpose of his journey and tells her he will be back before sunrise and not to worry. Faith tries to stop him from leaving; however, Goodman Brown remains stubborn and walks through a deserted road in the forest where he meets a mysterious man. The man changes Goodman Brown’s opinion of the town, his ancestors, and other religious people of the village. During Goodman Brown’s journey in the woods, he witnesses Goody Cloyse talking to the mysterious man and acknowledges him as the Devil. Later on in the trip, he sees Goody Cloyse, Deacon Gokin, and “Faith…trembling before that unhallowed altar’. The figure tries to baptize Faith and Goodman Brown together, but he resists and is left alone in the woods. His obsession with sin starts to grow as he realizes that the people he trusted are corrupt. 

Goodman Brown loses his faith in humanity after his journey in the woods. He can not stop thinking about last night as he walks into Salem the next morning and sees the people he saw in the woods, acting as if nothing happened and continue their everyday lives. He did not expect to discover the sins of people in his village when he started his journey. Goodman Brown represents an everyday man because of the color brown, which is also his name, symbolizes nature and honesty. His life was peaceful and only observed the good in people, not their sins. However, now he only sees evil in everyone and can not see any good in them. He believes that everyone is a sinner and is born with evil intentions. Goodman Brown becomes paranoid and only sees sin in everyone. He is terrified that the only person he had faith and trust in was his wife, but she also worships the Devil. The thought of Faith being evil leaves Goodman Brown shocked because he assumes she is pure and innocent, but she is a sinner and loses all hope. Goodman Brown can never actually confirm if his fellow Puritans are devil worshippers because he would have to reveal his trip to the woods and his temptation by the Devil, which will make him look like a hypocrite. He starts to torment himself over this and he becomes bitter and gloomy with his thoughts. With the loss of faith in the human race after his overwhelming experience, he slowly starts to lose trust in people and isolates himself. He saw many people in the dark congregation and never expected them to converse or even associate themselves with the Devil. He initially believes that everyone in the town is innocent. However, his meeting changes his whole perspective on them. He can not forget about evil in the world to the point where he “could not listen, because an anthem of sin rushed loudly upon his ear, and drowned all the blessed strain”. This thought consumes him and he distances himself from his wife and society as he can not trust anyone. He can not be truthful to his wife, Faith, and be a mentor to his children and grandchildren due to his doubts and confusion consuming his thoughts. 

Reverend Mr. Hooper in “The Minister’s Black Veil,” encounters sin in a different way than Goodman Brown did. Hooper walks into the church wearing a black veil that covers most of his face. The people of Milford are appalled that Hooper wears anything so gloomy since he was always “a gentlemanly person…”. Hooper does not respond to the reactions of the townspeople and starts his sermon. His mysterious appearance and his profound speech cause many people to leave during the sermon because they are afraid. At the end of Hooper’s address, he is left alone. Hooper wears his veil everywhere, no matter the occasion. He wears his black veil to a wedding and the atmosphere changes from pleasant to depressing. People question Hooper’s motive for wearing the veil and conclude that he is a sinner, however, he wants people to realize the significance of the veil, that they are guilty of the same violations that they accuse him of performing. He believes everyone is wearing a figurative veil to hide their sins and is determined to remind people of their sins. The veil also symbolizes Hooper’s bravery and courage as he has the strength to admit his sins, unlike the townspeople. At one point in everyone’s lives, they have sinned, but the townspeople do not want to acknowledge this. They do not want to be outcasts and be treated differently. They want to remain in their “perfect” lives and salvage their images. Therefore, they suppress their sins to keep their perfect Putitain image. Despite the misunderstanding about his veil, Hooper remains quiet and does not take it off. As Hooper refuses to remove his veil, the townspeople judge him and is the subject of gossip. His fiancee, Elizabeth, tries to convince him that he should remove the veil for the sake of his job and the townspeople. However, Hooper refuses and Elizabeth is frightened. She breaks the engagement leaving him permanently with only the townspeople’s speculations surrounding him. Elizabeth is embarrassed by Hooper and leaves him because she realizes the meaning of the veil and can not marry or stay with him when she does not share his melancholy view of life. Hooper to give up the love of his life for the sake of the black veil. The townspeople also isolate themselves from him thinking that he has sinned. The cause of Hooper’s isolation is the people wanting to fit in the stereotype of innocent Puritans. Hence, Hooper does not take the veil off, even when he is on his deathbed because no one has acknowledged their secret sin. Therefore, Hooper dies lonely with a smile on his face with the sadness of being misunderstood. hem away.  

In short stories as“Young Goodman Brown,” “The Minister’s Black Veil,” and “The Birth-Mark,” Nathaniel Hawthorne shows what role sins play in our life, in our world. We can notice how much commitment of crimes against God affect humanity. 

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