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The Tell Tale Heart And Young Goodman Brown: Is Evil Really Human Nature?

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Romanticism came about in the 18th century, Romanticism focused on the joy and good that come along with the natural world and humans. Although there is a glee side of Romanticism there is also a dark side of Romanticism. Dark Romanticism is the darker side of the natural world, the darkness within humanity and self-destruction. As Romanticism praises the merits of an individual, Dark Romanticism digs at the weaknesses of humanity. Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of many writers that is part of Romanticism then leads to the sub-genre of Dark Romanticism. Hawthorne had a belief in the inherent goodness or dark side of human beings which is two movement views on God.

According to author S. Chelliah in The Enigma of Evil and Concept of Sin as Reflected in the Fictional World of Nathaniel Hawthorne: An Appraisal, “Fully preoccupied with the problems of sin, guilt, responsibility, he was fully concerned with moral issues and values in life” (Chelliah 118). Within Nathaniel Hawthorne short stories he observes different realistic problems that are involved in humanity. Hawthorne comes from a descended Puritan background, although Hawthorne did not agree with the Puritans culture. Stated in Hawthorne and Puritanism from author Barriss Mills, “He covered what Puritanism professed but seldom practiced the spirit of piety, humility, and tragedy in the face of the inscrutable ways of God” (Mills 78). Hawthorne criticized Puritanism to show the truth of their morality. He believed that Puritanism was not a way of life but instead was a subject of literary art (Mills 79). Hawthorne wanted to reveal the Puritan’s religion and question their innocence. In one of Nathaniel Hawthorne short story, Young Goodman Brown, Hawthorne had similar ideas as Sigmund Freud did on psychological understandings.

Psychoanalysis was founded by Sigmund Freud in the 1800s, he made a connection that humans had an unconscious mind filled with thoughts and motivations. Hawthorne interpreted psychoanalytic approach within Young Goodman Brown, he used the Jungian theory developed by Carl Gustav Jung. Carl Jung was one of many psychotherapists like Sigmund Freud that had beliefs about the unconscious mind. The Jungian theory was a more depth insight on patterns of habits that humans could not break. These habits such as depression, addictions and anxiety took over the humans’ unconscious mind. According to author D.J Moores in Young Goodman Brown’s ‘Evil Purpose’: Hawthorne and the Jungian Shadow, “Specifically, the thesis I am offering here is that Young Goodman Brown encounters in the woods what the Jungian theory calls the shadow the unwanted parts of himself that are too distressing to his Puritan ego-self and thus experienced as a projection outside as something other, threatening and devilish” (Moores 4).

In Young Goodman Brown, Goodman Brown himself experiences habits that he cannot breakthrough, Goodman Brown has tensions that oppose his unconscious and conscious mind which cause him to fight his own internal beliefs about himself. Nathaniel Hawthorne created these “shadows” of Goodman Brown to display darker elements of one’s persona. Nathaniel Hawthorne believed that all humans had repressed ideas, weakness, shortcoming, and desires. He also considered that these latent dispositions were found in all human beings and would uncover deeper thoughts and fears within an individual. These unwanted parts of the individual would eventually cause one to demonstrate evil acts and thoughts. Hawthorne’s short stories portray the moral issues of mankind and its hypocrisy. The central theme of Nathaniel Hawthorne works is not only sin but the psychological effect that sin has on human beings. In Young Goodman Brown, a Puritan leaves his wife named faith. He leaves his wife to go to the woods later to have a visit with the devil. According to author D.J Moores in Young Goodman Brown’s ‘Evil Purpose’: Hawthorne and the Jungian Shadow, “Goodman Brown leaves the security of his hearth, his home and his faith to undertake a journey he knows is not in keeping with who he thinks he is—a good Christian husband” (Moores 6).

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The devil than creates Goodman Brown to have temptations which lead him to his own darkness. The encounter with the devil releases the lost and unwanted parts that Goodman Brown did not want to discover. Throughout the story, Nathaniel Hawthorne shows that Goodman Brown is exposed to human depravity. As Goodman Brown is in the woods he not only finds the corruption within himself, he also discovers the sinful acts in his society. According to author S. Chelliah in The Enigma of Evil and Concept of Sin as Reflected in the Fictional World of Nathaniel Hawthorne: An Appraisal, “As one could see his frail erring characters blindly and deliberately choosing a path of evil and staggering beneath a heavy load of gloom and guilt” (Chelliah 119). Within Young Goodman Brown man finds a way to engage in practices that are biblically and morally evil. As Hawthorne reveals the follies in Goodman Brown and society, he shows the discovery of evil that is the true nature of man.

The devil manipulates Goodman Brown’s mind and eventually, this influences him to perceive the truth of others having satanic ways in his society. This exposes man to evil nature, even those who are seeking to be righteous in society also engage in evil nature. Within the short story of Young Goodman Brown, Hawthorne wants to show his readers that Goodman Brown himself is the reason why he began to have sinful urges that led him into the woods that unmasked the truth about his reality. According to Michael Jaynes in Moving towards an Understanding of ‘Evil’: Young Goodman Brown, he states, “Goodman Brown cannot handle the knowledge that the entire populace of Salem Village, even the pious and religious figures from his childhood, are members in this dark communion. He refuses to acknowledge this common dark thread of humanity in any other manner other than evil, so he becomes bitter” (Jaynes 71). The truth of Goodman Brown’s reality was that everyone he knew has sinful ways, this caused him to become a sad, distrustful and a desperate man. Hawthorne believed that evil is within human beings because like Goodman Brown, we crave to follow a path that own desires want to explore. Similar to Nathaniel Hawthorne there are other authors that show an evil nature within their works, Edgar Allen Poe in The Tell-Tale Heart, shows evil nature aspects in his short story. Many themes that Poe includes in his works are death, destruction, and revenge. Throughout The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allen Poe uses a form of psychology called Axiological psychology which is the study of behavior and its manifestation of values and valuations. Edgar Allen Poe believes that ego hides within itself causing one to become evil. According to Magdalen Wing-chi Ki in Ego-Evil and The Tell-Tale Heart, “Poe’s stories manifest and intense interest in Ego-Evil and visual politics” (Wing-chi Ki 25). Ego is portrayed to disguise its thoughts to be your thoughts, it’s feelings as your feelings.

According to Poe believes that the ego of humans is what causes them to lie, cheat, steal, and even kill. Within The Tell-Tale Heart, the narrator comes across an old man’s “evil eye” that makes him insane. The narrator cannot tolerate the old man’s eye, so he becomes obsessed and repulsive of the eye. The dark side of the narrator leads him to the murder of the old man. According to Magdalen Wing-chi Ki in Ego-Evil and The Tell-Tale Heart, “The significant thing is due to the narrator’s supreme ego not once in the story has he shown any regret or positive regard for human beings” (Wing-chi Ki 35). Within the short story, the narrator proclaims he is not a madman and that he loves the old man and would never hurt him, but the narrator’s evil ego does not prevent him from killing the old man. Throughout the story, the narrator still wants to assure his readers that he is sane but what caused his insanity is the consist beating of the dead old man’s heart, this only led the readers to believe his insanity. Stated in Ego-Evil and The Tell-Tale Heart, Magdalen Wing-chi Ki states, “The Tell-Tale Heart offers no solution to terminate Ego-Evil. The story tells us that even though the narrator can be linked heart-to-heart to the old man, he does not want to see eye to eye with him. Poe reveals to us that, with a heart biased by self-love, the narrator’s eye can only be diseased, and the mind confused” (Wing-chi Ki 36). Edgar Allen Poe insisted that humans did not understand the distinction of an ego, that it is difficult for the mind to accept that there is something beyond and greater than itself. Humans are often assumed to have morals; all mankind morality is to be able to make decisions from right and wrong. Hawthorne wanted to establish that evil has an association between the moral judgment and motivation of mankind.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, Young Goodman Brown he uses his own experiences with his Puritan background to describe the woods as a dark place, which portrayed the woods to be a satanic place for the Puritans. Being that Goodman Brown goes out into the woods he is walking into hell searching for the devil. As Goodman Brown goes into the woods, he has faith, but his faith is very little allowing the devil to be able to hold temptations over him. The devil tells Goodman Brown that “Evil is the Nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness” (Hurley 410). This allowed Goodman Brown to be deceived by the devil, he deceives him from what is right and wrong. Within Young Goodman Brown, Goodman Brown himself has his own contradiction between himself and his own acceptance that sin is the nature of mankind. Hawthorne allows Goodman Brown to understand and inherent evil and this demonstrates that evil is inside of every human. Nathaniel Hawthorne believed that sin is disguised and buried within us, this prevents humans from self-actualizing and achieving pure goodness.

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