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Young Goodman Brown vs. Yellow Wallpaper

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2163 words Published: 4th Sep 2017

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A young, innocent man who bids his farewell to his wife before traversing through the dark, gloomy forest of Salem for an unknown errand. Young Goodman Brown, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is known to be a man that is heavily rooted in his faith and shows no temptation, reacting in such repulsion as he not only deepens further into the woods, but uncovers the secrecy of sins and evil within the people of his village. His wife, Faith, a representation of all purity and innocence was seen to be his “savior” through his confusions of tainted evil minds of every person in the world. Unfortunately, his woman of sanctuary turned out to be one of them, leaving him with no hope of redemption. His ultimate “awaken” to Faith signified his true relationships with his faith and everyone in the village of Salem.

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The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, talks about Jane’s deep and long-drawn depression and her marriage that only worsens her mental health. Her husband, John, demands a treatment to cope with her mental illness by placing her into a room with a chaotic, disturbing yellow wallpaper. The narrator at first detests the wallpaper, but as a day passes by, she becomes totally drawn into the patterns as well as the faint image behind the wallpaper. This unknown image soon becomes entangled with her paranoid mind. Eventually, she sees that the picture has come to be a woman that happens to be “trapped behind bars” which significantly reciprocates back to her own situation. Much of the setting takes place in a mansion inhabited by the narrator and John, the narrator’s husband.

From the hallucinations of the devil and the blasphemous surroundings in the forest to the wild imaginations of a trapped woman behind the yellow wallpaper; both stories depend upon illusions, repressed sexuality, and ends somewhat of similar purpose by having the two protagonists rejecting the world at the end. Feminist theory and archetypical usages are also both heavily integrated into either of both short stories. Feminist theory is the analyzation of gender inequality through the extension of feminism into a theoretical, fictional, or philosophical discussion. Archetypes are mainly composed of universal symbols that represent patterns of human nature through typical prototypes of character, theme, symbols, settings, actions, and/or symbols. Although Hawthorne illustrates the madness behind every character surrounding Young Goodman Brown while Gilman descends into her own mental madness, in both cases, the authors are firm on the idea to have readers focused towards the desired goal–the dilemma of the main character.

Does Young Goodman Brown really encounter the devil as he walks through the evil woods? Or was the evil man of the creature just his imagination? Hawthorne expresses that “the fiend in his own shape is less hideous when he rages in the breasts of men,” (Hawthorne). As Brown develops an intrinsic judgment and knowing that all sins and evil can derive from any being including him, he becomes very “accepting” of this evil man of a creature. Does Jane really see this woman behind the disturbing yellow wallpaper? Or was she just hallucinating? Taking the place of Gilman’s character, the woman is the “same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight,” (Gilman). The narrator begins to hallucinate and believes that she has seen the woman creeping secretively outside in the sunlight. Both stories depend on illusions or possible illusions.

Repressed sexuality is depicted as Hawthorne criticizes women in a negative aspect in Young Goodman Brown. In the beginning, they perceived the notion of an archetypal maiden wife, Faith, as an innocent and pure lady with pink ribbons on her. Faith wants Brown to remain with her for the night but rejects her and he goes to fulfill his duties. Throughout the book, Brown soon uncovers the truth about Faith’s religious perspective which negatively digs into his inner turmoil. Another example is Goody Cloyse, a respected Salem Puritans, along with many other hypocritical villagers, who becomes another victim of uncovered truths. “That old woman taught me my catechism,” (Hawthorne).  He discovered that she was not what he perceived her to be which the author instilled on the reader’s mind that “everything is not what it seemed.” On the other hand, the anecdote of Jane explains both her desires and resentment of John. Notably, he disregards all of her feelings and does what he thinks is best. “John is away all day and even some nights when his cases are serious. I am glad my case is not serious,” (Gilman). Gilman explains that while she deals with her outside feminist perspective of oppression. Her inability to pull herself out of her mental deficiency also adds her personal feminist oppression. The room itself oppresses the female protagonist.

The failed judgement of men in women is another thing that bring two both stories together. In The Yellow Wallpaper, Perkins identified John as not only a physician, but his viewpoints as one. He denies all certain activities or writing for his wife even though it would only worsen her mental conditions. John is depicted as very analytical and scientific, in thought, yet he fails to see anything seriously wrong about Jane and the lack of communication hinders the two as well. The lacked essential of the ability of John to truly listen his wife’s needs is the ultimate source of conflict in the story. In Young  Goodman Brown, Brown’s beliefs are tested to the fullest extent. Not only that, but the blinded trust he had in his wife madly triggered his inner turmoil when he discovered that she had succumb into the temptation and the involvement of witchcraft. Brown’s want of faith is what significantly takes a huge turn when he no longer can turn to the most important figure he had in his life.

Insanity is another topic found in both of the stories. Insanity is usually explained as not sane or sound of mind, but mentally deranged. Each of story takes place in a prison-described environment that includes the protagonist suffering from some form of insanity. Both authors concluded with Brown’s mentally deranged traumatic experience of the woods and Jane’s everlasting depression and paranoia was the case of both character’s inner conflict. From isolation to insanity, the torment within one’s outlook on reality becomes disrupted of stability, confidence, moral beings, and the state of mind. In Brown’s case, he basically questions his own thoughts and purpose for existence that it becomes unbearable when he find out that each corruption eventually shatters the foundation of every relationship he has built upon within his community. For Jane, the detachment from society and being unable to interact or relate to other in meaningful ways already forces her to be in her own state of confinement. Confining to inner thoughts and emotions eventually leads to unhappiness and insanity for both protagonists of the story.

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Regarding symbolism, the “journey” is a major result of the downfall of Young Goodman Brown. The journey always explains how the hero descends from his residents and embarks on this quest that leads to uncovering the blackest truth. It is usually an “errand that is unknown to the wife and serves an evil purpose.” The “ritual” meant to be an organized ceremony involves honored members of a given community and an initiate. In Brown’s case, he views the evil assembly as an awakening part to his perspective as he sees Faith participating in such forbidden actions. The use of myths and archetypes in The Yellow Wallpaper features the wallpaper itself. Yellow is often associated with the symbolic meaning of creative, energy, consciousness, and possible enlightenment. The creativeness and energy have taken towards a darker point, and Jane is only fixated to her dark inner consciousness–the woman in the yellow wallpaper. Imagery such as “a smoldering unclean yellow… dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulfur tint,” (Gilman). These symbols have an effect on both characters that result in the defiance of all social norms and the trivialized purpose in their actions. Brown manages to live in the world, albeit in an emotionally cramped, pushed-away fashion after his “journey.” Jane, on the contrary, is unable to deal with her feelings. A sense that there can be no reconciliation between her and her doctor husband, leaving her to deal with her mental insanity in isolation. The note of despair of both characters is carried through differently.

Settings in both stories are undeniably similar in the way of their lasting impacts on the protagonists. The forest in Young Goodman Brown contained many evil descriptions. “People with frightful sounds–the creaking of trees the howling of wild beasts, and the yell of Indians,” (Hawthorne). Young Goodman Brown must venture the forest and reveal the true meaning of the people of the Salem Village–secrecy of sins and unjust hypocrisy. Perkins described the room of The Yellow Wallpaper as the opposite of what is thought to be flamboyant, committing artistic sins. “When you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide,” (Perkins). The symbol of the wallpaper mirrors that of the “mythological labyrinth.” The narrator must journey through the wallpaper as she would a labyrinth and find the secrets for her and herself only. Both protagonists rebel against the revolting surroundings which ultimately leads to both of their downfalls.

As Young Goodman Brown uncovers the evil nature of the devilish figure among each person, the resisted temptation to turn towards the dark side grows weaker by the moment. The effects of sins during the “ritual” forever tainted his opinions of good and bad. Though it may seem as his journey through the woods may be a possible dream and that it is only all of his illusions, Brown was able to grow from a realistic standpoint through seeing the true colors in even the most trustworthy men and women. Brown was able to  see all the practical nature of people and their daily acts of sins including his loving, “innocent” Faith. He was also able to acknowledge that the Devil is, in fact, capable of taking a form of his father, distinguished members, and even himself. With each prevailing of truths inch a step closer to the theme: public morality is strongly corrupted when one’s privacy of weak faith has been discovered.

As Jane completes the tearing of the yellow wallpaper so that the woman could escape behind bars, she estranges herself to the idealization that she is in fact, the woman in that wallpaper. The detailing of Jane’s mental and emotional decline lacks the expression and her frustration in the inability to assert her independence that only result into her own grief and mourn for freedom. The more time she spends isolated in her room by herself, the more she was able to grow resilient towards her disturbing output on the wallpaper. Eventually using her interpretation of the place as guidance towards what is needed to be done in order to cope with her mental illnesses. Significantly, The Yellow Wallpaper examines the marginalized roles that deny women of their own self-expression under the corrupted societal gender norms.

In the end, both characters concluded the situations by rejecting themselves from the world. Young Goodman Brown becomes very bitter and cynical upon his society whereas Jane descends into her own dementia away from society. When both characters are put through a situation, unable to escape their problems and force to face their emotional toll, Goodman Brown and Jane acts in total urgency to do whatever they can in order to reprimand themselves. Two entirely different stories yet both characters–facing their own dilemmas–have reached what was underlying for the both of them. Through the illusions, the oppressions, and the denial of both characters’ problems, Hawthorne and Perkins describe their stories with such introvertedly explained problems that cause the physical situations necessarily to take matters into their own hands. Jane essentially breaks free from her husband and recovers from her dementia while Young Goodman Brown’s faith in Faith fades away, realizing that he has to guide him through his own faith in God. Even if everyone else no longer does.


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