A part of the Romantic period, the Dark Romantics were a group of writers that, instead of focusing on the beauty of nature and the inherit good in man, focused instead on the supernatural, spooky and darker side of nature and the inherit evil that was possible in man. Death grief, mental illness and the supernatural were all common in the poems and short stories of the Dark Romantics. You may recognize some of the writers in this group – Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. In class we will also be studying Emily Dickinson during this period, though there is some debate on whether or not she is truly a ‘Dark Romantic’ writer.
First, be sure to review the video from class over the Dark Romantics:
Our first Dark Romantic tale will be Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’. Before reading this story let’s review an important literary concept that will be very important to understanding Hawthorne’s purpose – the allegory.
In class we discussed the classic allegory of the cave from Plato, where prisoners only know the world through the shadows of objects reflected on the cave wall by firelight. One prisoner escapes and see the real world outside of the cave; he is determined to go back and share what he has found with the other prisoners – however, few dare to leave the cave to find out about the real world for themselves, and most don’t believe this man.
In Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”, we see a young man travel one night into the woods outside of Salem, leaving his sweet wife at home to worry for him. On the way through the woods he meets a series of characters that challenge his beliefs and reveal to him the true nature of man and himself. Hawthorne set his story during the Puritan period – Hawthorne’s own great-great grandfather, Judge John Hathorne convicted’witches’ to hang during the Salem Witch trails; his great-great-great grandfather William Hathorne persecuted Quakers. These events and Hawthorne’s family history feature prominently in his story, including “Young Goodman Brown”.
As you read the story, remember our discussion that each of the characters serves as a symbols for a larger idea, or has very specific symbols associated with them. For example, Brown’s wife is “Faith” – her name serves as an obvious symbol for what she represented. The Old Man in the story has a black walking stick that looks like a snake – this is closely associated with what his character is meant to represent in the story. As you read, keep track of the character’s actions and the symbols associated with them in your Character Analysis Chart. We will use this after we finish reading the story to help us understand the deeper allegorical meaning that Hawthorne is trying to make.
we discussed how the symbolic meaning of the character’s names can help you to better understand the overall allegory of the story. As you read, be sure to keep track of the character’s actions and the symbols associated with them in your character analysis chart. We will use this analysis to help us discuss what we believe the allegorical message of the story to be by the end.