Nathaniel Hawthorne: Innocence Lost

Topics: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Young Goodman Brown, Mosses from an Old Manse Pages: 6 (1950 words) Published: April 8, 2005
Innocence Lost

My Kinsman, Major Molineux and Young Goodman Brown present Nathaniel Hawthorne's belief in the universality of sin. These works provide numerous perspectives into the nature of the human condition and the individual's role within it. Hawthorne fictionalizes a world where communion with man is essential for spiritual satisfaction. The main characters of these stories face moral dilemmas through their pursuit of human communion. Whether the problems are moral, psychological, or both, Hawthorne insists that the individual must come to affirm a tie with the procession of life, must come to achieve some sense of brotherhood of man. In order to commune with mankind, one has to give up a secure, ordered and innocent world. The individual becomes liable to a fearsome array of complex emotions. One feels alienated by a community that forces himself to corruption while his isolation creates an ambiguity. The newly initiated into the rites of man appears no more moral than those who he disdains. Hawthorne presents a world where communion with mankind leads to corruption while isolation from humans is an unpardonable sin. Nathaniel Hawthorne presents an interesting predicament in man's search for communion with his fellow man. Coming of age in Hawthorne's time requires an affirmation of sin, communion with sinners and celebration of life through sin. Hawthorne creates this environment by grounding the consequences on earth. To feel the universal throb of brotherhood, one must recognize sin, participate in and celebrate it. Hawthorne affirms, recognizes and revels in the depravity of the human condition.

The first fatal step of understanding human nature is a self-conscious probing that ends in confusion. The story of My Kinsmen, Major Molineux presents the youthful character of Robin on his way from the country to the town of Boston. He wishes to succeed within the community, and figures that it will not be difficult because of his connection through Major Molineux, a prominent figure of the community. Hawthorne erodes innocence slowly through the harsh experience of urban realities. Robin's initial contact with the residents of this community jostles his confidence. He does not yet understand the harshness of adults and happily continues on his way. But Hawthorne underscores the cost of his yearning. Robin has to give up a secure, ordered, and innocent world for the demands of maturity. Upon entering he becomes liable to a fearsome array of complex emotions. (Stubbs, pp.71) He realizes this array of emotions when he is alone at the steps of church. He longs to be at home while he cherishes the memories of the comforts he left behind. Hawthorne opens the doors of emotions for Robin only to close the ones of security and comfort. "…and when Robin would have entered also, the latch tinkled into its place, and he was excluded from his home." (Hawthorne, pp.1181) Robin's own subconscious is aware of the past, he can no longer return to. A new environment lies at the feet of the sensations of emotions, "But still his mind kept vibrating between fancy and reality…" (Hawthorne, pp.1181) Robin's longing for his country home undermines his goals in town. The urge and understanding of communion with men rises with every bit of loneliness. Emotional confusion leads to a desire for communion with others to ward off feelings of loneliness.

Hawthorne sends Robin and Young Goodman Brown on their respective quests to find union with man. The search for man's universal heart beat leads the two men down well trodden paths. Upon recognizing the need for communion with mankind, a new door opens to the innocent. The options are to enter and learn the secrets that connect mankind or to turn one's back on the understanding of fellow brothers and to exist in naivety and denial of the fundamental human truth. However the examples of communion Hawthorne provides are not glamorous....

Cited: Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Ethan Brand". Nathaniel Hawthorne 's Tales. Ed. James McIntosh. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1987. 231-244.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "My Kinsman, Major Molineux". Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994. 1173-1186.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown". Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994. 1198-1207.
Stubbs, John C. The Pursuit of Form: a study of Hawthorne and the romance. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1970.
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