Short stories, when written by the same author, vary by subject but sometimes contain similar themes. Nathaniel Hawthorne was an entertaining writer who wrote many such stories. Two among his works have some striking similarities. “Young Goodman Brown” and “My Kinsman, Major Molineux” both were written within three years of each other by Hawthorne (1832-1835). The biggest similarities between the stories were with the main character of each. Robin from “My Kinsman, Major Molineux” and Brown from “Young Goodman Brown” were both young men on a journey that took them through a single night.
Both men held some innocent or nave worldviews. Both had idealistic views of people that were proven to be untrue. Both men experienced events that should be perceived as symbolic. However, each man met a different fate. Both Robin and Brown took journeys that changed their lives forever. Both of these journeys took place mostly under the cover of darkness. That was symbolic of the naivet of both men. Both men met a series of people on their journey that turned up later in a different light. Robin met a large man in an inn. When he later saw him again, he saw the man as man with a two-toned black and red face.
The change was only a symbolic one that reflected Robin’s view of the evil of the man. Brown experienced something similar with the character Goody Cloyse, who he thought a devote Christian. Later, he saw her on the road chatting with the devil like they were old friends. Both men had an idealized character. Greater than the changes in the minor characters, both men had their views of their idealized character completely changed, which changes their life. Brown’s wife Faith symbolized his faith, so he held an idealized view of her. At the end of his journey, she appears at the devil’s ceremony, which is symbolic of his loss of faith.
He never sees her in the same way again. Robin thought that his kinsman Major Molineux was a highly respected member of his community and a great man. At the end of his journey, Robin sees him tarred and feathered looking not very great at all. He finds out that the people of the town hated, not respected, this man because of his support of the British. Though their objectives on these journeys were different, both men experienced a similar loss of innocence. Though the process was similar, the outcomes of their journeys were different. The purpose of each man’s journey was different. Brown’s journey was a systematic breakdown of his faith.
It succeeded. All the people he held as pious and in high regard were found out to be involved with the devil. Brown was inflexible and allowed this to permanently disrupt his faith in humanity. He became “a stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not desperate man” after the events of his journey. The rest of his life “he shrank from the bosom of Faith. ” Brown led an unhappy life because he lost his faith. Robin on the other hand did not. His journey was a systematic breakdown of another sort. His journey served the purpose of changing the nave country boy he was into a man of the city who sees things for what they really are.
His journey was also a success. His misconceptions about city life were lifted. By talking to people, he found they were not as friendly or generous as he may have hoped. He found there was a battle brewing that was forcing the citizens of the city to choose sides. By the end of his journey, Robin saw the city as it was. He was no longer a nave country boy. Because of this, he was then allowed the opportunity to stay in the city and grow. Robin’s journey forced him to have a coming of age. Robin and Brown’s journeys were somewhat similar in the experiences they had along the way.
Both met people that changed along the course of the journey. Both had their perceptions about people altered. Both had their lives changed permanently. The purpose and outcomes of their journey were different however. Brown’s journey had a negative ending while Robin’s journey ended on a more neutral note. Brown died unhappy. Robin had his vision of his uncle shattered, but grew stronger as a result of his experiences. One lost his faith while the other had a coming of age. Though their journeys had similarities, they were very different because of the outcomes.