Rough Drafts in the Making: Early Thoughts About Hawthorne from Spring 2001

    The following email exchanges are posted by permission of the authors.  Use of them to develop your own thinking is encouraged, as is proper citation of their authors when they're used.

From: Student, A  Sent: Thursday, February 15, 2001 4:06 PM

1.) In "Young Goodman Brown, the casual reader would miss many of the references to temptation and to the Salem Witch Trials. The reader would not identify that Goodman is ashamed to have relative associated with the trials.    Really? Hmmm...I'm thinking that would be pretty hard for the adult American reader to miss. Remember how many people in class knew about it when I asked about Hawthorne's infamous ancestor? That's a pretty detailed knowledge of the event. I'd assume they're starting further along than that, like your note immediately below, though they may have had a footnoted version that made that identification for them. That still wouldn't explain to them the way H uses this to raise the specter of the trials while not referring to them explicitly in the text. Why do you suppose he mentions (or has the "figure of a man" mention) those two other incidents of official cruelty instead? Hmm...

A name of one of the victims, Cory, is mentioned. Cory was killed when the judges were trying to pump information from him. Rocks were piled on top of Cory to force him to speak, but he did not. I think Cory's a female ("that unhanged witch") but I don't have a scholarly source to prove it. Do you? (HINT!)

One intrepretation could be that YGB is tempted by the forest. The forest could be seen as evil, and if Goodman Brown ventures into the forest he is succumbing to evil.  This is extremely cool. Don't rush into the "guardian angel" interpretation too fast before sitting with this association for a while. What is the typical modern American association with "forest"? Evil? How about the luxuriant growth of vegetation in "R'sD"? Do you see a problem emerging here, one H is grappling with and using at the same time? Look back at the text and see how it constructs the "character" of the forest. With what are its dangers associated?

Goodman Brown's companion could be his guardian angel, urging him to deal with the temptation and confront his fears that could exist in the forest.  I don't see any "angelic" references re: that guy, but the confrontation motif could certainly be argued. Look again at the figure's speech to the two "converts" just before the end. Look at what he's asking them to believe.

The reader would also miss the possible dual role of faith, as not only his wife, but his devotion to the Christian faith. When the couple are strapped down into the forest, Goodman Brown beckons his wife to "Looks up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One!" (Hawthorne 9). Goodman Brown could be trying to remind himself to think of the Heaven, which he thinks will save him from the evils in front of him.  OK--that could be the "bridge" understanding that most of your readers might begin to see but not completely understand. So think longer about that one. If Faith is an allegorical term, then what is the significance of a character telling his "Faith" to "Look up to Heaven and resist the Wicked One"? I don't want to bias your reading, but a few paragraphs earlier, the laughing YGB was described as no less terrible than the demons he spoke of. Does that still matter? Or has he changed? It's a form of the "two faces" issue raised in "MK,MM," perhaps.

2.) The three stories all have leading men who go through their own journeys that appear to have promise for the characters. Robin and Giovanni are more of the younger, romantic hero type, while Goodman Brown is the more reserved, darker type. The three stories leave the reader questioning what parts of the story were real, since all three stories involve some form of a dream sequence. Only if "YGB" was a dream. Otherwise, it only refers briefly to dreams twice, but never has a chunk of narrative that actually is a dream.

The heroes all have to face one form of temptation. Robin's tempted to laugh, while Giovanni is tempted by Beatrice, and Goodman Brown is tempted to venture into the forest. At the end of each of the stories, the hero has changed and having a different perspective of the world. Religion also has varying degrees of importance to the story. Religion plays the biggest part in "YGB," but is not so important in "MKMM."  This covers a lot of ground very quickly--but it's not without merit. Robin also is tempted earlier, isn' he, and I don't mean just sexually re: Ms. Scarlett Petticoats. Think about the Christian notion of sin--what kinds are there? Maybe in comparing religion in "YGB" and "MK,MM" you might see some variance in the kind of religion depicted. It's all Protestant Christianity in those two tales, but there are lots of flavors of that stuff. For instance, think about Christian "behavior" or "conduct" vs. ceremonies, Bibles, church offices, etc. That's a common subject of sermons from the era in which NH was writing, I believe, and you might be able to find scholarly sources that would explain what they taught about the difference.

3.) Hawrthorne's prose is understandable and well-written. He likes to put in the romantic aspects into the beginnings of the stories, to lead the reader into one direction. How are you using "romantic" here and above re: characters? It has two obvious senses--modern courtship behavior and a nineteenth-century literary movement NH was involved in, perhaps. How do you mean it and where do you see it in the text? Get into the habit of always providing "for instance" examples even when jotting notes. It's a way of increasing the precision of your language and analysis.

Throughout the three stories, he likes to build the stories to a frightening climax where the hero is tested or in conflict. Robin's climax in "MKMM" is possibly seeing Molineaux tarred and feather and unsure of whether to laugh or to not laugh. Giovanni's climax is confronting Beatrice in the gardenscene where she dies. <where he's not sure whether to do what or what?> Goodman Brown's climax is being faced with the possible witch meeting where his faith comes into question. <ditto> The leading character goes through this cycle, and by the end of this cycle, the reader is left to question whether he has changed for better or for worse. These stories incorporate many religious elements, which could either mean that he could be mocking or showing his devotion to his religion. Hawthorne expects that his writer be educated, evidenced from the French in "RD" and the Salem Witch Trials in "YGB." The reader also has to be knowledgeable of the Bible, because religion is an important aspect to the stories. Hawthorne wants his readers to be people who can understand the subtle aspects of this stories. The reader has to be quick and intelligent enough to see those sly symbols, or else the reader will not comprehend the story.  Yes, good point. But there are all sorts of "education," aren't there? The kind he got at Bowdoin is like the kind you're getting at Goucher, and it's not too far away from what Giovanni sought at Padua. What is the other kind that NH is demonstrating here? How does his reader relate to it as the plot unfolds?  That's all for now, but these are some promising "threads" to explore. Several of them could turn into paper-supporting insights. [ . . . ] --a.

From: Student, B  Sent: Thursday, February 15, 2001 4:30 PM

"Young Goodman Brown" contains an allegory. The names used in it, mostly Faith, but also Goodman, seem to suggest that this story is about more than just one man and his relationship with his wife and town.  Yes--but note there are lots of others whose names don't work that way. In a true allegory, it's all allegory. This one's a mixture of allegory and more or less realistic fiction. What does it do to a reader to suddenly see "Faith!" as two exclamations in one breath?

He expects his readers to know the Bible well and to know French.  Yes, but does he treat knowledge of French as a neutral thing? Ditto knowing the Bible. Is it "the Good Book," always, or does it contain more disturbing things?

"YGB," "MK,KK," and "R's D" each had a stranger or a stranger to the environment in the story. Each gave a different slant, and it changed the story's perspective  Think of "strangeness" as a quality, maybe abstract it to "alienation." What produces it? What does it mean?

Untrustworthy main characters lead to the mystery and the suspense before a revealed secret. The dreams involved with the characters cause their untrustworthiness. The dreams allow us to see that the main characters still doubt the world around them. Robin dreams after seeing his kinsman and the crowd, it almost seems to be in place to soften the transition of Robin into the world of adulthood. He is tired from so much traveling, that his accounts of the world around him are surreal. For Goodman Brown "it was a dream of evil omen"  Neat observation. Untrustworthy in what sense, though? Poor Robin. Isn't he a "shrewd youth," or does he only have the reputation of being one? And is his untrustworthiness produced by the same thing as YGB's?

Hawthorne enjoys binary opposition in all three stories. The opposition in each piece is the pivotal matter for each story's theme. (Perhaps it's not necessarily binary opposition, but just a stark contrast) Giovanni is the stranger to the setting in RD, so he is new to the binary opposition between science and nature, and Baglioni and Rappaccini. In MKMM, Robin is the stranger to the town, and the contrast between the townspeople/adulthood and his family, the major and his childhood. YGB brought up the contrast between purity and corruption, and the stranger in this case was the man who embodied Goodman Brown's doubt.  You can find the purity-corruption dyad in "R'sD" too when Giovanni is trying to understand what Beatrice is. What kind of language is "pure" and "corrupt"? How do we define such terms? After all, if we can define them, they're awfully dangerous.

I'm trying to figure out if the point of view, or the angle of the stranger affects how the contrasting figures, or the secrets are presented/revealed.  Go! Yes! See above re: "alienation." Is it a communicable state, like the 'flu?

The prologues at the beginning of MKMM and RD both direct our reading and try to distract us from Hawthorne's true intent. Upon first read, they distract us, but upon deeper inspection they reveal notes that are very important to interpretation.  Yes, so is H expecting us to reread? Does he do things to make the stories blossom with new meaning only after a first reading has prepared the reader's mind?

(I apolgize for the scattered quality of the above mess. And if I think of something new/better to add, there may be an ammendment to this email.) --katrina allen  I take the disorder of early writing for granted. In the rough draft I should start to see some logical organization controlling the assembly of parts, but here you're doing marvelously. --Arnie

<<<after the biographical research project, hers on Hawthorne, himself>>>

From: B Student  Reply To:   Sent: Monday, February 19, 2001 10:03 PM To: 'Sanders, Arnie'  Subject: a hawthorne thought

        Having some more thoughts about the Hawthorne stuff. In my research about his past for the background info we're presenting in class, i discovered information about how solitary his life was in the beginning. I think I see a lot of that influence in how the alienation for each of the three stories we read has played out. That's just a side thought at the moment that  i felt like dropping for some reason. Don't know why! I think I have support for it, but my mind isn't operating quite right just now. Anyway, just felt like sharing. I'm hoping that my excitement will carry through so that I enjoy the entire writing process for this paper.-- katr*na

       Hi B, I know what you mean about the need for a charge to get you through the pain of writing. I usually manufacture it by considering myself sort of the servant of the author, helping his work get through to people long after his death. He's past worrying about it now, one supposes, but just the same, I'm sure that anybody who put that much effort into making himself a serious author would have appreciated your knowing about his youth and its likely influence on his work. Put another way, I'd certainly hope that someone would do the same for my own feeble efforts to write.

        The evidence of the author's life can raise some problems, usually grouped under the term "biographical fallacy" in critical methods courses, but with the right cautions that evidence can prevent other kinds of errors. The "BF" is produced when a reader assumes that the text contains an alienated character (for instance) only because NH was alienated and solitary as a youth. That kind of explanation is sometimes also slammed with the adjective "reductivist," because it reduces to a single cause the things necessary to understand a complex text. It sort of short circuits the interpretive process by presuming NH had no choices in character construction other than to reproduce his own life story, sort of endless autobiography in masks. I 'm sure that's not what you have in mind, but you may occasionally encounter that kind of reasoning, even in published research (usually from the early 20th or late 19th century).

        The more subtle use of the evidence is to establish the author's likely vocabulary of interests and associations, especially if one can validate the thesis by finding it in more than one of his works. So the bio information establishes the grounds for the hypothesis that lonely youths would be of interest to NH, but it would only be the start of the interpretive process ,establishing their significance in the tales, exactly how he handles loneliness, its products, and the questions this raises: is loneliness always bad?; how is loneliness ended? does he depict life in crowds/communities always as a good thing? That may teach us how the adult NH learned to understand and reflect upon his childhood experience, and how his observations of other people's loneliness may have led him to draw conclusions different from his own in youth.

        In the biggest picture of all, sometimes called the "history of ideas," you may be able to see NH participating in a big, multinational (& multilingual) debate about the nature of identity and community, humanity and nature, reason and emotion (and a few other bigtime would-be binary oppositions). It's something I hope the Melville group will notice their guy working on, and it clearly was of importance to the English Romantics (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelly, Keats, etc.), the German Romantics (Schiller, Schelling, Schlegel and Goethe), and the French (esp. Rousseau). It also, through the French, makes Poe part of that dialogue. If the Emerson group is doing its job, they'll note that he went to England and met Coleridge, who turned him on to the Germans, and he brought that back to New England. It's a fascinating time for our own culture since it's the first big post-Revolutionary War attempt by Americans to take a part in defining what it is to be human, and its effects are felt by us still.

        Mind if I reproduce this one as an addendum to your notes on the website? I like the way you position yourself as a researcher in process, someone on the way to a paper who is thinking about how to nurture the process that will produce it.  --a.

From: Student, C  Sent: Thursday, February 15, 2001 4:53 PM To: Sanders, Arnie Subject: Reflectins on Hawthorne and YGB

1. I think that the casual reader does not realize that Faith is being used to symbolize the faith that Young Goodman Brown has in God.     Nah...too easy, especially for early C19 readers in H's own era. But read on...

YGB is searching for his faith.  Why does he leave her in town and seek a meeting in the woods with someone/thing he fears? It's like looking for your paper in the refrigerator because the food's better there. Something odd is happening. If it's allegory, you have to read it like one--what he does is what it means. Were he to slug Faith in the jaw, it wouldn't be "wife beating" but rather assaulting a belief system. But only if it's only an allegory. Is it?

HE says that "after this night I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven. The man that leads him into the forest says that he would not want faith to come to any harm.   YES! So if he's not lying, then he's not the Devil, eh? But wait a minute...hmmm....(Devil, noun, see "Father of Lies).

Also many readers may not have picked up on the fact that though YGB may have resisted and looked to heaven for faith, he still lost it that night. After that he was never able to worship God again or trust anyone. So evil had it's way in the end.  Now you're starting to read allegorically. He has "Faith-the-Wife," but he certainly has lost "Faith-in-God" or "Faith-in-the-Church" or (you name it as the evidence directs you).

2. I see that in all three pieces Hawthorne presents us with young men on the threshold of life and that are faced with making a life changing decisions. For Robin it was going to the town and being faced with his kinsman, for Giovani it was going away to university and then being faced with how to handle his desire for this girl, and for YGB it is his decision about whether to enter into the cult of witchcraft.

        Also all three stories present the struggle between good and evil and choosing which path to take. Also whether or not the main character should stand up for himself and follow his own beliefs, or follow that of another or of a crowd.  Yes. First, does it do anything to you, as a female reader, that H is so ready to see maturation in terms of male journies? What role do female characers perfrom in these stories? Do you identify with them, or with the male protagonists? Or with neither, so you're sort of excluded from the text. And does "R'sD" focus quite so much on the male as "YGB" or "MK,MM"? What effect does that have? Or, to look at it another way, do those decisions have anything in common if you look at what made them difficult, especially as they're shown to us in the text? (and further, are they also difficult for us to evaluate?)

3. I am really enjoying reading Hawthorne's work! In high school I read the Scarlet Letter, but struggled through it. I think that I was too immature to understand all that was involved in the story.  YES! I've always thought that there are reasons other than "defending morality" to argue that some books are not appropriate for young readers, but also it's inevitable that aging and experience will alter our readings. Sometimes (alas) it kills the book, but I think that's a sign the book was weak in the first place. What I relish are the books that keep renewing themselves as I go through another one of those life-transformations. After all, the one from "infant to child" and the one from "child to adolescent" and the one from "adolescent to adult" are the only ones anybody in this class knows (except me!). But there are a whole series of others stretching out in front of us all. Do you think H, and other seriously gifted writers, can see beyond their own experience and represent life crises that they have yet to experience in fact?

Hawthorne expects his readers to dig way below the surface of his writings. He looks for the reader to ask questions, lots of them! On the surface his stories are entertaining, but they leave the reader a little perplexed which forces the reader to then search for themselves what his intentions.  Excellent point. You're describing a kind of interpretation known as "hermeneutics." It assumes the world is filled with enigmatic objects whose real meanings are hidden. The oldest of these interpreters were the Neoplatonists, philosophers who came after and modified Plato, and who thought the world was sort of "God's book" to be interpreted by unpacking its symbolic construction. They, in turn, influenced writers to compose their own literature with hidden meanings in imitation of the Master Author. NH might have been introduced to hermeneutic interpretation in church, where it was taught as a way to extract the divine meaning from biblical passages that don't appear to have any moral content, as well as from the NT parables which are clearly teaching stories with tough, flinty little kernals of truths hidden inside them.

        You've got a good start here. Go back to the text and test your memory against the evidence on crucial scenes. That's the way to continue to "wake up" from the dream of the text. 

From: Student, D Sent: Thursday, February 15, 2001 8:26 PM To: Sanders, Arnie

here's that three minute writing thing that cat riches told me about, i hope this is what you meant. i'll write more if it isn't. by the way, what's the website address? I keep trying to access it but can't. know you told cat that I had to call you, in fifteen minutes or so i'll attempt a call. apologies if i dont sound all that conscious. --D Well I guess it's part of the territory. Maybe your microbes are in control of the shift key? (Hee-hee)

Hawthorne's writing style shows that he has an extensive vocabulary and that he uses it in an ironic way. I don't mean that he writes in a paradoxical style, but that he can be cynical in his thoughts. For example, "Young Goodman Brown" is extremely cynical in its portrayal of the Christian faith, something the casual reader might not necessarily pick up (although he makes it obvious; he named Brown's wife "Faith"). This sarcastic undertone, combined with Hawthorne's conceptualization of virtue, ties the three stories together. This could be good if you can isolate and identify what you mean by "ironic," "paradoxical," "cynical," and "sarcastic." You're using them apparently as synonyms, but they're not. However, you're clearly on to something very important and non-obvious about H's tone, that hard-to-pin-down element of his style that probably comes from some combination of unexpected word choice and sentence construction in the context of the scenes in which that tone emerges. He's not always that way, but often enough to leave our memory of the "dream of the text" significantly colored by it. Can you capture the moments at which this tone makes itself heard? First get better definitions of those terms, with good examples to anchor your sense of their proper use. Then figure out which ones H is using, when and where. Also, be careful not to attribute to H the things his characters say, but you can sometimes make a case about what the author thinks from a large pattern of similar events.  What did you mean by H's "conceptualization of virtue"? Do you mean that word as a measure of general goodness, or in its sense as absolute moral good, the opposite of vice?

In class we narrowed down "MK,MM" to a question of to laugh / not to laugh.   Maybe a little too narrow, but it helped us focus. Are there any other questions at issue, too? Anystory more complex than an Aesop's fable probably has more than one conflict in it.

With "Rappaccini's Daughter" the conflict can be compared to Genesis with the problem of beauty / poison.  This one's not too clear. Does Eve fall because the snake is beautiful? Or is our identification of the tale's "Eve" faulty?

The same generalization may be placed on "Young Goodman Brown." However, Goodman Brown's walk through the forest is not only compared with Giovanni's garden or Robin's search of his kinsman but with a generalization of man's fight with good / evil.   I like the way you put this, if you really meant that H's "man" (the old plural noun for all human beings) was fighting with both good and evil, sort of fighting with the whole concept of moral absolutes? But how does R's search with his kinsman fit that? (Remember your paper doesn't have to treat all three stories!)

I cannot elaborate further, but as the remaining seconds count down, let me address the last question. Listening to Hawthorne's prose is a unique experience. I don't necessarily understand all he's trying to say, but the words and the structure all lend themselves in the making of the story. To be short, I dont find him boring. He expects that his reader knows a bit of the time period and the area and to have a basic understanding of things. Hm, went a bit overtime, I could probably say more. --Kat Benash  Yes, sounds as if you'd really like to do the "tone" topic. See above for how to start nailing down the evidence and your categories of analysis (those terms). Even drawing upon the evidence in only one story, that could be a powerful analysis.

From: Student, E  Sent: Thursday, February 15, 2001 6:51 PM To: Sanders, Arnie  Subject: Young Goodman Brown Questions

1. The concealing of evil behind goodness, and possibly the concealing of the same evil behind the visage of the church. The possible connection between the old traveler's staff and the serpent of the bible, and an entire society of people that are suspisious of everybody else and too afraid of the evil to have "faith".  Great start--when you use the verb, "to conceal," it implies that there is a "concealer." Is there, or is this a natural form of camouflage? For instance, in "R'sD," it might be fair to say that both Rappaccini and Baglioni conceal what they're doing, or at least their motives for doing it. Giovanni, too--maybe only Beatrice reveals what's on her mind and why she's thinking that. In "YGB" it's a very layered world, even though it appears flat at times (i.e., that "Salem village" street scene with almost no detail, "Faith" with only a sweet/vulnerable voice and pink ribbons--heck, she could be wearing mink and combat boots for all the narrator tells us!). How is evil "concealed," then? What makes it hard to detect? Can you point to things in the text that your best readers would unanimously identify as evil? That's a place to start.   The issue of fear and its resultant suspicion works interestingly with the "good concealing evil" analysis, doesn't it? I'd like to see a definition of "good" that encouraged fear and superstition. What if (he speculated) there were no such thing as "evil," or at least no such thing as supernatural evil like "the devil" etc.? What do fear and suspicion have to do with our beliefs in such unseen, non-natural, non-rational beliefs?

2. In Young Goodman Brown, the church itself was a veneer concealing the true evilness of all humans, basically showing that there was no church.   Whoa! Sounds like "Young Goodwoman Robson"! Do we know for certain that the church was "no church" but rather a cover for evil? Think like a juror here--has YGB's prosecution proven its case, or has the narrator given you reason to doubt that? It's certainly possible to say the character YGB believes that this is true, and one might compare that with Robin's beliefs or Giovanni's.

In Rappicini's Daughter, Rappicini didn't care for the people that he experimented on, but only the end result of the experiment. He, in a sense, felt that he could play God in human lives.   Again, you've bought a partial explanation of events. That's not what Rappaccini, himself, says in the concluding scene, but rather its exactly what Baglioni tells Giovanni. Don't we have reason to doubt Baglioni's veracity? However, this story could work with "MK,MM" below in a study of a narrative from which most religious structures have been emptied of their social/moral force.

In My Kinsmen, Major Molineux, Hawthorn mentions how the light of the moon shines on the bible in an empty church. The moon is reading the word, while the townpeople are covering one of their less liked citizen's with tar and feathers. In all three stories, there is also the question of what is truley good, and what consitutes as evil.   This one seems to work if you define "evil" as bad behavior, and good as good behavior, vs. the supernatural version of those terms we saw in #1 above. Do you see how that ambiguity in the terms might be interpreted by your paper?

3. In his prose, Hawthorn seems to hint at what is to come to the observent reader. In Young Goodman Brown, Rappicini's Daughter, and My Kinsmen, Major Molineux, at the start of the story there always was a hint of waht was to come, never mentioning what was coming, but setting things up in the story so that the outcome, although specifically it might surprise the reader, won't catch them off guard, for they are aware that it's coming. As an author, Hawthorn utilises foreshadowing in his prose methods, for most of the stories are started off with some foreboding. From his reader, Hawthorn expects them to have some knowledge of the bible, and the ability to read between the lines.--Beth Robson   Cool observation! I can see a paper studying H's patterns of "hinting" for the "observant reader." Define both terms and locate your best evidence. Explain how the "hinting" is done and what that suggests about H's method, and cogitate a bit about what that all means for your best reader. This could be a very strong insight if you can develop it by returning to the evidence.

To: F. Student, re: handwritten draft on the Hawthorne stories

Hi F, Here's what I've got so far. I'm taking them up serially in the order in which you wrote them. No order of importance should be inferred. I'll try to indicate that when I get there.--a.

1) Your first one gives us a list of figurative language types which H uses. Which do you think is the most powerful tool he has, or the most interesting to you, in his attempt to construct characters: imagery, symbolism, ambiguity, or allegory?

2) Though he does assume that some knowledge of the setting and history will be available to his readers, I think you could argue that a reader might get a very good (if not excellent or complete) reading with none of that local knowledge, much as we emphasize it sometimes. Look again at the stories' use of setting and ask yourself exactly how much of "reality" he has used in constructing the tale. I'd not do this in "R'sD" because it's so much more rich in Paduan detail. But "YGB" and "MK,MM" are interestingly flattened by contrast. What's left out? What's "left in"? Why?

3) You suggest that issues of good versus evil and religious allegory can be found buried in some way within the tale, "a deep inner meaning." What "outer meanings" obscure the "inner meaning" and why do we create that outer meaning? What do we have to do for our own readers to convince them of the existence of those "inner meanings" and why would H want us to have to do that?

4) You call the narrators of all three tales "omniscient," but I think there are clear limits set on what the narrator can reveal in all three. In "MK,MM," the narrator only can see into Robin's mind. Why? In "R'sD" the narrator can see lots more things, but all those little puzzles about what Giovanni sess or doesn't see are left intact, not resolved for us by the narrator, so he knows no more at times than Giovanni does. In "YGB," does the narrator know whether it was a dream or not? Does he know whether it was the Devil or not? I don't think so, and that's interesting. What effect does that have on the reader?

You've got a good start here. Go back to the text and test your memory of it. Unlike Young Goodman Brown, you can reenter your reading experience and test its events rather than having to rely on memory alone. That will begin to reveal the truth about how H does what he does, and maybe why he does it that way.

From: Student, G  Sent: Thursday, February 15, 2001 11:09 PM   To: Sanders, Arnie  Subject: Hawthorne Questions

1) What do you see in "Young Goodman Brown" that you think the casual reader doesn't? I think that the many references to Faith are meant to indicate, note only the character but also the personal religious faith of Goodman Brown, and that this makes for the most interesting reading of the story. Does the usage "Faith" always occur in capitalized form? When it occurs, is it always strongly connoting "religious faith" vs. the denoted "Young Goodman Brown's wife's name"? This could be something useful to study, especially the second one. It's not obvious to the casual reader because we're moving to fast to notice, so its effects will be subtle.

2) What do you see in "YGB" that has connections to things you've seen in "MK,MM" and "R'sD"?  Each story revolves around a young man who has just started out in the world, and each story places the young man in unfamilair territory. There are often biblical allusions in each story. Each story is much like a tragedy, though the characters themselves do not fit the tragic hero prototype, in that the sad conclusion to each story is made known on some level from the very begining. In each story is also a male figure seperate from the protagonist that acts as some sort of mentor or guide (though their judement is not necessary benevolent); the man in the forest in YGB, the gentlemen that sits with Robin in MKMM, and Baglioni in RD. Interesting that you'd phrase it "revolves around." Does the centrality of the young men do anything to the other characters that we should be aware of, but might find hard to notice because H is so good at putting us to sleep in the dream-of-the-text?   How does the territory become "unfamiliar"? At least in the case of YGB's walk in the woods, it's supposedly entirely familiar to him if he grew up in Salem. Robin's visit to town is different, more like Giovanni in Padua, but without Giovanni's class advantages. Hmmm...could you do anything with the effects of class in those two stories? So much is made of Robin's "country" (read working class) origins and habits that it's impossible to miss there, and Giovanni's aristo background shows up pretty often. Can you imagine them meeting in the street? Yet somehow they strike you as having the same sort of experience.   I like the comparison with tragedy. How would you define the "tragic hero prototype"? Do you mean "type" (model, form) or literally "prototype" (earlier model from which this one descends)? Can you figure out how to derive a good definition of "tragic hero" from Hawthorne's own work? You could apply one from Aristotle, and at least H probably would have known of it (as we see in R's response to seeing his "kinsman"). Hmmm...might it be possible to say that the main characters are not, themselves, tragic heroes, but that they witness or think they witness tragedies?   What about those male "mentor or guide" figures? As you note, they're not always interested only in the protagonist's welfare. What does the ambiguity of their motives do to our experience as we witness them "helping" the protagonists?

3) What are you beginning to think about Hawthorne's prose style, his methods as an author, his expectations of his reader?  Hawthorne appears to be a fan of employing literary devices associated with what could be called a "horror story." He enjoys building suspense and showing his reader just enough of his portagonist's terrible circumstance to arouse fear, but not enough to allow the reader to become comfortable. Many of the biblical allusions that Hawthorne expects his reader to understand, are associated with this "suspense-craft." Hawthorne also uses these allusions to enforce a common theme in his stories which is, "who do you trust." He seems to enjoy presenting the reader with deliberating misleading information, either through a far-from clear eyed protagonist or through an often inconclusive narrator. His characters are also paced with a domain in a postion where they have received conflicting information and do not which source to trust.   Neat observation! You are working on the definition of "horror story" but keep at it. Or narrow it down only to how H produces suspense in his readers by revealing clues about the protagnoists' terrible circumstances. It seems like it's important that the protags don't really realize how bad it is, or at least mistake its badness, though we're allowed to infer what it might really be. The "who do you trust" (or is it "whom do you trust"?) theme might be the start of the title of a paper! The trusting/distustful protagonist is witnessed by the trusting/distrustful reader whose relationship to that "guide" figure might be part of the trust/distrust mechanism.  The last sentence could also produce an excellent study of location, especially the location of observers, as a factor creating suspense in H's short stories. Think of the number of times people are spyed upon, seen unawares, or at least seen by people they cannot, themselves, see or fully know. What kind of effect does that produce? (It's a major source of anxiety in first-time teachers, let me tell you!)

From: Student, H  Sent: Friday, February 16, 2001 12:44 PM To: Sanders, Arnie Subject: Similarities between the stories

1. One obvious difference is that the first two stories had prefaces and the last one didn't. I think having the preface helped Hawthorne to develop his reader, but at the same time it also foreshadowed the story, in a sense give it away. I personally like the last storie because I didn't really know where he was taking me.   Neat observation--could support a nicely focused paper. Reread them and ask yourself exactly what kinds of things he's doing to the readers in those prefaces. The "R'sD" preface wasn't in the first book-collected version of the tale. After Mosses From an Old Manse went to a second edition, Hawthorne restored it. What does that suggest? Does the last story's sense of an unknown destination derive in any way from the absence of the preface? Note that it has a sort of "afterward" in the last paragraph. Could you say H is trying to massage his readers' minds on the way out of "YGB" in the same way as the prefaces work on them on the way in "R'sD" and "MK,MM"?

2. All the stories had similar plot which basically start of telling a story and something unepected happens and there is the climax and after that there is a little resolution. All the stories try to prove a point.  This is way too general for me to figure out. The one thing I could take on here is the second sentence. Do you see his tales as working like an academic essay, with a thesis? Or is that something your previous teachers have sort of conditioned you to say by asking questions like "what was the point of this story?" Could there be more than one "point" and could the reader's job be (in part) figuring out how to resolve the competition between the points? In an academic paper, ambiguity is usually seen as a flaw, but notice how many times H uses it to great and successful effect? What can you make of this difference in genre?

3. They are all written form the Omniscient point of view, and even sometimes the reader knows more about what is going on, than the character themselves.  Thank You, Dimitriy  Ah, but true omniscience is pretty rare in fiction, and I'd say the narrator is peculiarly blinded in all of these tales. What things doesn't the narrator appear to know? For instance, the narrator asks a question at the end of "YGB," but he doesn't answer it "yes" or "no." How does he answer it and what kind of knowledge does that suggest he has?   I agree that the reader's superior knowledge with respect to characters' knowledge is a crucial effect, and it, too, might make a neat paper. It's one of those things we can be aware of without exactly understanding while we're reading "in the dream-of-the-text." But you, as a scholar, could return to the text with your microscope and spot the exact places where our understanding overtakes and passes the protagonist's and measure the effect of that gap in knowledge on our experience of the text.

From: Studnet, I  Sent: Thursday, February 15, 2001 11:46 PM To: Subject: English 105-Today's questions

Dear Professor Sanders,  The awaited answers to the questions that you posed today in class are here.

Thank You and have a good evening. 

1. What do you see in "Young Goodman Brown" that you think the casual   reader doesn't?  I believe that the character of Young Brown's wife, Faith, represents Brown's 'faith' in the goodness of humanity. When he thinks that she has gone toward evil, he is no longer able to see good in any human. All is suspected to be evil. Faith is an allegory. This could be true, but in several ways. Would H have used "Faith" in that humanistic sense, or would he identify "Faith" with American Protestant Christian ideology (using the last term entirely neutrally as "an idea system")? And if he would use it that way, would the character, Young Goodman Brown, use it that way? How could you tell which H meant us to see, or might he want us to see both? That is, it could be a triple ambiguity--YGB names his wife, names Christian belief allegorically, and conjures up for H's readers a view of YGB's unconscious faith "in the goodness of humanity." Does the word always come with a cap "F" and does it always mean in that ambiguous way, or are there places where it more clearly deposits only one of those meanings in the reader's mind, perhaps because of the sentence or plot context?  How does allegory work in a text that has a real setting? For instance, wouldn't it collide a bit with our interpretive rules for understanding a story set at "Goucher College" in the Spring of 2001 with a cast of characters drawn from English 105.15 if one of the college's administrators is named "Scholarly Authority" and all students who write have to take their papers to him or her to get his/her approval before turning them in?

2. What do you see in "Young Goodman Brown" that has connections to things you've seen in "My Kinsman Major Molineux" and "Rappaccini's Daughter"?  In all three stories there are female characters whom Hawthorne presents to the reader as double sided. In "Young Goodman Brown", there is the character of Faith who the reader is led to suspect is in league with the devil; Beatrice, in "Rappaccini's Daughter" is innocent and loving, yet poisonous; and the woman with the scarlet petticoat, whom Robin encounters in "My Kinsman Major Molineux"("May not a man have several voices, Robin as well as two complexions?' said his friend. 'Perhaps a man may; but Heaven forbid that a woman should!' responded the shrewd youth thinking of the seductive tones of the Major's housekeeper.")  Extremely neat observation! This one's got "legs" as the wine experts say of a powerful vintage. The doubleness of the females is fairly well documented here already, but of course you could find still more ways that the tales invoked those attributes. What about the protagonists? Are they introduced to us as, by definition, simple "monads" without an "other self"? And even if they are so introduced, do they remain so to the end? What is "doubleness" in the sense that Robin refers to it, and why should gender be the horrifying element that makes it unacceptable to Robin? I'd say the "friend" doesn't share Robin's "monadic" view of human personality. Is that a clue to H's view of it, too?

3. What are you beginning to think about Hawthorne's prose style, his methods as an author and his expectations as a reader?  Hawthorne's style of writing tends to make the reader's mind meander on a gradually unfolding path. He seems to want his reader to question his/herself once that have finished the journey. Hawthorne expects fairly well educated (understands French etc.), culturally knowledgeable, and religiously informed readers.   The description of the reader's journey through the text nicely captures his prose rhythms. The winding part comes from his delight in compound-complex sentences whose true intentions swing back and forth more than once before coming to rest in a resolved opinion. Look, for instance, at the sentence about the staff's transformation. Do you see how that could turn into a paper analyzing how his prose creates that effect?  Your suspicion that he wants to stimulate our self-questioning about the completeness of our understanding also seems accurate and productive. Where are the biggest, most obvious "interrogation points" in the tales? Does he have ways of inducing those moments without actually asking questions in the text? Again, this could focus a nice paper on a discovery and explanation of his strategy. It's "non-obvious" because we have to read far too fast to notice all the events that disrupt our assembly of a coherent reading--in fact, we're likely to forget them because the mind craves order and tends to exclude anomalous data.

From: Student, J  Sent: Thursday, February 15, 2001 8:19 PM To: Sanders, Arnie Subject: answers to three questions

Arnie, here's the answers to the "free write" questions we answered in class.  -J Student

1) I see a definite good vs. evil theme in "YGB" which questions what is good and what is evil. It also deals with illusion vs. reality. The allegorical nature of the characters is another thing a causal reader may miss. Faith is both Goodman Brown's wife and yet she represents his faith as well. For this reason Faith is ambiguous. Goodman Brown's name is itself an allegory, he can be any goodman, anyone trying to live a life as a morally good individual.   Could you ground a paper in a discussion about how the use of allegory in an otherwise historically located time/place poses specific crises of interpretation for H's reader? That is, the allegorical nature of those two names is not always apparent to us, but at certain moments, the context of their use makes us unable to refuse it.   Also, when concepts are treated as binaries, any "fuzziness" at their edges is dangerous. The "zeros" have to be completely empty and the "ones" have to be full to the brim (but only with one thing, never two). Otherwise the "binary opposition" falls into a mere spectrum of difference with (in this case) "good" and "evil" at opposite ends and lots of ambiguous stuff in the center. "Illusion" and "reality" operate the same way. Do you see "YGB"'s "evil" as supernatural or as "bad behavior"? Which better supports it as a binary term opposing "good"? What does the tale's simultaneous discussion of "illusion" vs. "reality" do to the "good" vs. "evil" opposition? Can they coexist?

2) All three of the stories we have read have temptation, have religious/biblical allusions and/or references, and deal with the basic human question of what is good and moral and what is evil or immoral? Characers are struggling with reality and morality.   I'm not sure I see "MK,MM"'s Robin as so concerned with morality as with reality, but moral references are there, of course (re: Miss Scarlett Petticoats--elsewhere?). Think about the specific language of the text that lets you know whether events are being described in moral or in real terms. How does H signal to us which interpretive hat we should have on?

3)Hawthorne writes to reveal a basic human question. He causes the reader to think and question ideals they may posess as to what is good and what is evil. Such as in "YGB" the usually moral townsfolk appear to be immoral and devilish. The reader is left to question if this is true or if they are truly the moral individuals they appear to be. He expects a reader to know something about chritianity and history. His reader is a detective, trying to guess his next movement with the story.  Excellent! You've already got a title! "Hawthorne's Reader as Detective: An Analysis of ...[story titles here]" Now is this one of those detective stories in which the guy's best and most trusted friend turns out to be the villain? Or could it be one of those in which the detective turns out to be the "perp" (ever see "Angelheart"?). Go go go!