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Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" presents guilt versus innocence as the major theme running in the story. After witnessing members of his town and his own wife take part in a Black Mass, the Puritan man gives up with human kind and subjects himself to a life of gloom and mistrust. This was Young Goodman Brown's first experience with evil and he also views it as his last. He says: "after this one night I'll cling to (Faith's) skirts and follow her to heaven" (Mandell, 308).
Hypocrisy is captured as a minor theme. Goodman Brown trusted his wife Faith to be a good Christian. To him, she was innocent, good and spiritual, most probably an angel on earth. He even believed that due to her goodness, he was assured of a place somewhere above the skies. However, after an ordeal in the forest, he discovers that the people he admired and regarded as good Christians were actually hypocrites. This alters the course of life for him (Mandell, 301).
Mandell (300), Hawthorne depicts Goodman Brown as part of many other sinners. Sin is prevalent in the story as we see a community of sinners. One can never evade sin as it is a part of human nature that is inescapable. Goodman Brown's forest experience leads us to a series of events that show Brown deteriorates spiritually until he dies.
The stylistic devices used in telling the story include the following:
Historicizing is one vital technique employed by Hawthorne. The dialect Hawthorne uses is very much critical to this technique. The absence of the Puritan dialect, "Young Goodman Brown" might cause much of the historical significance being passed across to get lost. The setting of the short story is Salem, in Massachusetts. The time is not explicitly stated. However, in mentioning that Goodman Brown's father took part in King Philip's War, the author places it during the late 17th or early 18th century. In addition, the use of dialect in the short story propels any one reading into the world of Goodman Brown and facilitates their understanding of the setting (Moores, 38).
Allegory; here, characters are used as personifications of abstract qualities. Hawthorne gives a direct link through the characters names, for example Faith and Goodman Brown.
Symbolism; the use of a young man, Goodman Brown is a symbol to illustrate the journey a young man goes through reluctantly as he leaves the world of innocence to come face to face with the widespread evil in the world.
In "My Kinsman, Major Molineux" the contrast that is there between the order in country life and the disorder in the city introduces us to the theme of order versus disorder. Robin leaves behind order in the country life and encounters difficulties as he enters the city, portraying the challenges most young people face as they grow up and as they enter a world different from the orderly prototype of their childhood. Robin has to turn things around and create order from what appears to him as chaos (Feddersen et al, 86).
According to Feddersen et al (86), the American Revolution has been well captured by Hawthorne. Feelings of political discontent among the American people leading to the revolution are depicted. The writer presents his point of view, just like everyone else that supported the revolution to liberate themselves of British rule. By punishing Molineux, the townspeople show openly how they desire to be free. Robin's journey towards self independence without the major's help also symbolizes this undertaking.
Hostility and barbarity is depicted through Robin's experiences. Arriving in town, he expects to be welcomed with civility but instead what he witnesses is contrary to his expectations. The people he meets seem arrogant and uncaring, and on top of that he views an inhuman form of punishment meted out on people. Molineux was subjected to excruciating pain in addition to the shameful public humiliation. The city people also view Robin as unwelcome and alienate him since he is an outsider and because of his connection with Molineux (Feddersen, 86).
A number of literary skills have been employed by Hawthorne to tell his story. In "My Kinsman, Major Molineux", the following styles are used:
Allusion; A Greek philosopher in the name of Diogenes of Sinope is alluded to the mention of the Moonshine of Pyramus and Thisbe, a character in "A Midsummer Night's Dream". In paragraph eleven of the story, Jean Nicot is also alluded to symbolism; upon entering Boston Robin wields a polished cane. This symbolizes the urban complex and sophisticated life. The mention of a scarlet petticoat in the story is a symbol traditionally standing for sin and shame. Robin was a victim of attempted seduction by a young lady (Mandell, 298).
The two stories have certain aspects in common as far as literature is concerned. One striking aspect is the setting. The stories both go far back in time to the ancient days. Though the themes are not specifically the same, there's the aspect of comparison in their main themes, for example the theme of order versus disorder in "My Kinsman, Major Molineux", and the theme of guilt versus innocence in "Young Goodman Brown" (Moores, 38).
The literary techniques employed by the writers do not vary to a large extent. Symbolism, figure of speech and allusion are found in both stories. There's extensive use of symbolism in telling the two stories. To sum up the whole discussion, it can be said that in both stories, "My Kinsman, Major Molineux" and "Young Goodman Brown there are a variety of themes and styles that differ while others are sim