University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Hawthorne’s Display of Evil
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works “The Scarlet Letter” and “Young Goodman Brown” are literature classics. Hawthorne thoroughly portrays his main themes and ideas in these works. Both of these works illustrate the effects of evil on the human soul. Through Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” and “Young Goodman Brown” we can clearly see that evil causes people to judge other people, evil corrupts one’s faith, and that evil has the power to transform the human soul. In “The Scarlet Letter” we see just how much evil causes people to judge others.
Hawthorne effectively shows this through his character of Hester Prynne. Since Prynne committed the sin of adultery, she is forced to stand upon a scaffold in front of the whole city of Boston to be questioned and scolded. One of the townsmen said to Chillingworth, “The penalty thereof is death. But in their great mercy and tenderness of heart they have doomed Mistress Prynne to stand only a space of three hours on the platform of the pillory and… wear a mark of shame upon her bosom. ” (Hawthorne p. 4) This quote shows us that the public’s opinion on Hester Prynne has now forever changed.
She is forced to wear a scarlet “A” upon her bosom to let everybody know exactly what she has done. The evil she has committed has greatly affected everyone’s point of view on Hester Prynne. Evil can harm a person in multiple ways. Another way it can harm you is by causing you to lose your faith. In Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” we see Goodman lose his faith in multiple things. He loses faith in God, in his family, and in all of the people who he associates with. While the Devil leads him into the forest, Goodman sees many familiar faces.
He recognizes the faces of his wife, Faith, and he also recognizes the faces of the priests in his town. Though Goodman Brown is not sure whether it was a dream or not, he is convinced that evil is all around him. While in the forest, the Devil says, “By the sympathy of your human hearts for sin, ye shall scent out all the places – whether in church, bedchamber, street, field or forest –“(Hawthorne p. 613. ) Since he has heard the Devil’s word and witnessed these familiar faces, Goodman Brown has forever been changed.
Evil has taken a toll on Goodman Brown, and it has caused his faith in his wife, family, and associates to be corrupt. One of the worst things evil can do to a human is transforming their soul. Hawthorne’s story of “Young Goodman Brown” illustrates this concept thoroughly. Goodman was transformed by evil in many negative ways. Before his meeting with the Devil in the forest, Goodman believed his whole family and his whole town to be very godly and he felt that he was living a great prosperous life.
After his meeting with the Devil, Goodman had a negative outlook on everything in his life, he trusted no one but himself, and he lost hope in everything that he had going for him in his life. Hawthorne displays ways that evil can transform the human soul in “The Scarlet Letter” through his character of Chillingworth. Throughout the story, Hawthorne displays Chillingworth as “the man in black” also known as the Devil. Chillingworth, Prynne’s actual husband, goes through many changes in the story. His figure begins to change dramatically, making him look more evil.
Chillingworth also desires to seek out the man who is the father of Pearl. He wants to find him because; he wants to make sure that the man does not repent of this sin. They people of this story believed that if one did not repent for a sin, then he or she would go to Hell. Chillingworth was not an evil man before he knew about the child. However, after the evil was committed against him, he began to turn evil, and wished the worst for the minister, the father of Pearl. It is apparent that the evil in both of these stories took a toll on both of these men’s souls.
Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” and “Young Goodman Brown” both effectively display how evil can cause people to judge other people, how evil corrupts one’s faith, and how evil has the power to transform the human soul. Though evil has always been apparent in every day society, Hawthorne is attempting to influence us to always stick to your faith. No matter how bad the sin you commit is, God allows repentance for all sins. Hawthorne’s works are persuading us to never lose hope or give up on our faith.