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surfacing The Nature Of Evil In Young Goodman Brown

The Nature of Evil in Young Goodman Brown




In Young Goodman Brown, Nathaniel Hawthorne tells the tale of a man and his discovery of evil.  Hawthornes primary concern is with evil and how it affects Young Goodman Brown.  Through the use of tone and setting, Hawthorne portrays the nature of evil and the psychological effects it can have on man.  He shows how discovering the existence of evil brings Brown to view the world in a cynical way.  Brown learns the nature of evil and, therefore, feels surrounded by its presence constantly.
Hawthorne creates a serious and somber tone throughout much of the story.  From the start, the audience gets a sense that Brown will go through relentless agony from the devilish stranger.  His diction in the opening paragraphs is a good indicator of this.  He uses words such as melancholy, evil, dreary, and grave to evoke a certain mood in the reader. There is little relief from this seriousness that would suggest that Hawthornes attitude about the story be hopeful.  Browns attitude and actions portray a negative view of Salem and its people.  He ponders the hypocrisy of the town as well as that of the Puritans.  He examines the possibility that evil and corruption exist in a town that is supposedly characterized by piety and devout faith.  
The story is set in seventeenth-century Salem, a time and place where sin and evil were greatly analyzed and feared.  The townspeople, in their Puritan beliefs, were obsessed with the nature of sin and with finding ways to be rid of it altogether through purification of the soul.  At times, people were thought to be possessed by the devil and to practice witchcraft.  As punishment for these crimes, some were subjected to torturous acts or even horrible deaths.  Thus, Hawthornes choice of setting is instrumental in the development of theme.
He uses contrast as a means to portray the village as good and the forest as bad.  This adds significance to the fact that Brown begins his journey in the town and proceeds then to the forest.  The use of imagery captures the appearance of the forest as well as lending a sense of foreboding towards the impending evil.  Hawthorne says of Brown, He had taken a dreary road, darkened by the gloomiest trees of the forestIt was all as lonely as it could be (2208).  Immediately following this description, Brown speculates that he may not be alone in the forest.  He fears that there may be a devilish indian or the devil himself in his presence (2208).  He is disturbed by the fact that he knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude (2208). This suggests to the reader that he is no longer feeling the comfort and safety he felt at home and is suspicious of what lies ahead.  Brown is fearful of his mission even before leaving. However, in leaving the village, he leaves religious order, the familiarity of the scenery, and his beloved Faith.  Upon entering the forest, he becomes victim to the possibility of the discovery and consequences of evil.  In fact, it is in the forest where evil manifests itself to him in the form of an older man of the same dress and class as Brown.  It is this experience which ultimately affects his outlook of the world.
Taken at a literal level, the story is about a man who goes on a journey to the forest and encounters various strange situations.  However, the narrator is working on two levels.  There are objects and characters in the story which are representative of something else.  For instance, Browns wife, Faith, represents religious faith.  She also exemplifies what it means to be a good woman and wife. He worries that Faiths dreams are warnings although she is his only justification for making the evil journey.  She is his hope for an excellent future.  Brown describes her as, blessed angel on earth and promises that after this one night, he will, cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven (2207).  When Brown, ... more

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Futzing Around With Sexual Stereotypes


Live Nudes: Futzing Around With Sexual Stereotypes

[W]ith neither money nor careers at stake, caution is unnecessary, you can do anything, said Michael Smith, an important figure in the Off Off-Broadway movement, about the glib attitude and openness of Off Off-Broadway Theater.  An anything goes attitude was the essence of avant-garde theater.  Fittingly, nakedness on stage was not uncommon in the Off Off-Broadway theaters.  John Elsom, an expert of eroticism in the theater, stated, nakedness meant freedom: clothes and respectability -- tyranny (200).  Homosexuality was even more commonplace and seemed to be considered fashionable by these avant-garde artists.  The mere existence of radical Off Off-Broadway Theater served as a catalyst for more open sexuality, especially nakedness on stage, homosexuality, and the involvement of women in theater and popular culture.  In Rochelle Owenss play Futz, the shock value is bestiality.  Cy Futz openly loves his sow, Amanda, and his society does not accept this and persecutes him.  Owens uses bestiality to represent a lifestyle that an individual leads that is not accepted by society, like homosexuality, and the ridiculous persecution by society for a lifestyle that is different than normal.  Futz embodies three distinct aspects of avant-garde theater in New York: the emergence of nudity on stage, the surfacing of homosexuality in the arts, and the liberation of women; Futz manifests the changing political and social attitudes of the times.
Nudity and erotic messages were used to shock the audience, very much like Antonin Artaud, whose techniques and theories influenced the development of avant-garde theater.  Stavros Kolliopoulos says in his article about Artaud that he sought to establish a physical language without transcendental references, directing his fury against society in a state of constant confrontation.   Artaud saw theater as a primal force and believed in the expression of primitivism in his work (Harding 60).  The importance of nakedness had two distinct motives, yet only the second pertains to Owens play.  These moments of nudity caused exposure for the performance, but more importantly, nakedness symbolized a rejection of middle-class standards (Elsom 200).  Owens, by the mere fact that she was involved with Off Off-Broadway Theater, was rejecting middle-class standards.  She was not, on the other hand, using sexuality and nudity to cause exposure, for popular success was of little importance to her and to Off Off-Broadway as a whole.  Futz and all of Off Off-Broadway was a reaction against mass-marketing and monotonous commercialism.  Emory Lewis wrote in his chronology of theater that most of the young, fearless explorers start off with the radical premise that there is another America and another culture conveniently ignored by the mass media; they are in absolute revolt against the Establishment and those they regard as its brainwashed followers (138-9).  This movement embodied the many protests of the time, and it manifested the doing-your-own-thing aspect of the counterculture revolution.  Of course an institution built and prided on such a removal from consumer society would include nudity and sex.  The novelty of nakedness on stage wore thin when nudity became more of a crucial aspect to other mediums of entertainment, such as film and nowadays, nudity on stage and in film is ordinary and has no apparent shock value.
Tom OHorgans work, most specifically Futz, became famous because of its scandalous nature of the sexual-erotic content, the seemingly orgiastic physicality, and the occasional near or full nudity (Aronson 96).  Tom OHorgan was the original director for Futz in Ellen Stewarts La Mama Experimental Theater Club.  OHorgan gained notoriety from his work in the first ever rock opera, Hair.  OHorgan followed four elements to his direction (Berkowitz 146).  First, he attempted to de-emphasize the text and concentrate on the performance and the emotion of the live actors.  Second, he had his characters communicate nonverbally at times and explored nonrational communication.  Third, he tried to make the audience and the actors interact, thus breaking down the fourth wall.  Finally, he tried to utilize all aspects of the theater and the current technology.  He used all of these aspects in his production of Futz.  At times during OHorgans performances the actors became vulnerable, stopped acting, and were naked for the audience to see.  The fourth wall had been broken down, ... more

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