Analysis of Young Goodman Brown and Reverend Hooper: Violent Ambivalence Toward Women
Frederick Crews believes that Young Goodman Brown is ‘violently ambivalent’ toward women. This implies that Brown is unsure about women, in general, and about Faith, specifically. An overall affront on women is shown when Brown realizes that all the decent, dignified women he has known were all sinners in the forest: “wives of honored husbands, and widows, a great multitude, and ancient maidens, all of excellent repute, and fair young girls, who trembled lest their mothers should espy them” (Hawthorne 65). This almost universal list shows that two important characters are absent, namely the wife and mother of Brown. However, Faith eventually emerges, simply to vanish at the gruesome initiation, as though Brown were incapable of facing an ultimate encounter with his doubts about her. In addition, he has been pushed into this event by thinking that Goody Cloyse, the woman who educated or trained him in catechism at a very young age, is a sorceress; it claims that female power is as doubtful as male authority.
The overall tendency of Young Goodman Brown is that paternal authority is demoted to demons and maternal authority to sorcery. However, the result of such tendency, as is consistently observed or seen in Hawthorne’s stories, is not plain humiliation but a continued uncertainty or ambivalence. Brown spent a large portion of his existence with Faith, yet cultivates repeated doubts about her good qualities and values. On second thought it can be assumed that the root of his ambivalence has been obvious from the very start- specifically, his persistence to perceive Faith more as a perfect mother than a wife. I agree with the observation of Frederick Crews. Faith is a more understated subject of a hopeless desire to look for a release, a sanctuary. Occurrences are sped up by Brown’s decline of his wife’s request to remain in the house: for he thinks that “’twould kill her to think” (Hawthorne 63). Eventually, middle-class ideals formed the vision of innocent, unselfish women to aid in the ordering of a changing society, yet Faith cannot be hence tamed, and Brown’s rejection deliberately to recognize this leads her into the forest. Due to the cleverly unworkable narrative ambivalence, the story requests that the reader holds a dual perception of her while Brown can merely recognize just the conflicting incompatibles—being a loving wife and her yearnings to go beyond established moral norms.
Reverend Hooper of The Minister’s Black Veil is the same as Young Goodman Brown—he holds an ambivalent view of women. The reverend was seen by the young people as an adversary of women. It is when we concentrate on the women that the mystery and ambivalence of Reverend Hooper is understood. Hawthorne distributes the hints all over the story. Celibacy enables a person formally or legitimately to reject women. Nevertheless, the problem with Hooper is that for a Protestant minister, being single is unacceptable. Somebody should carry out the Herculean responsibilities of a minister’s other half. Hawthorne presents Elizabeth as the ideal preacher’s wife. Yet Hooper avoids marriage, turning her down with a veil. Yet, the veils of ordinary people do appear nowadays to be fear-filled denial, saying that commitment is not for them. Sadly, there is perverse enjoyment in Hooper’s consistent denial of Elizabeth, especially at his demise. He is very creative and shrewd at ruining female authority.
Hawthorne has been criticized for being a chauvinist, especially by feminist, because of his male characters like Young Goodman Brown and Reverend Hooper. Such chauvinism could be brought about by fear of female power and wisdom. During the time of Hawthorne, women are largely stereotyped, seen as mere ideal wives. No woman is allowed to go beyond societal norms. But strong women, like Faith and Elizabeth, are a threat to this status quo and it seems like Hawthorne is warding such threat from happening. The problem and misery in the relationships between man and woman are leading aspects of Hawthorne’s disastrous idea.
Our own period’s gender stereotypes make the encouraging and favorable gender relations within Hawthorne’s narrative appear inaccessible. Obviously, the knowledge of Hawthorne’s of shared apprehensions or fears was the initial attempt at resolving the issues between the sexes and to demonstrate that the anxieties of men were mostly baseless. Sadly, Hawthorne had to mask or hide this important message through metaphor. It is such fear of female authority that pushed authors like Hawthorne to perpetuate what is seemingly an eternal rift between the sexes.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter and Other Writings. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Incorporated, 2005. Print.