Young Goodman Brown, The Maypole Of Merrymount, An

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Young Goodman Brown, The Maypole of Merrymount, and The Birth-Mark


I began my Hawthorne reading task with The Birth-Mark. I picked this story because I am familiar with the Maypole of Merrymount and Young Goodman Brown, and I wanted to try something different. I was pleasantly surprised with The Birth-Mark, in my mind it far surpasses the latter two stories. I think one of the most admirable traits of Hawthorne is his ability to write as though actions are taking place somewhere in the present. Aylmer could very well live today, somewhere in the world with his laboratory in the backyard. Men like Young Goodman Brown are everywhere in today's society, and, still, there are those who try and destroy that which they do not understand or refuse to understand like the Puritans in The Maypole of Merrymount. The Birth-Mark grapples with the scientific progress of the time. I think the theme of humans trying to control nature with unfavorable results is prevalent in many works of the time, most notably Frankenstein. The fixation that Aylmer has on Georgiana's birthmark is unnatural. Hawthorne correlates this quest for perfection with Aylmer's intentions of formulating an elixir of life and mastering the art of alchemy. Maybe Hawthorne is drawing a parallel here between the scientists of his day trying to control nature and by the failure of scientists to do this in the past. Aylmer's attempt to control nature leads to the death of his wife which is unnecessary, she is quite content with the minor facial blemish until he makes a big deal about it. Maybe this too is a parallel between the mass majority being content with the state of the world and a certain few who would like to make it better, and, in turn, destroy it. I can understand Hawthorne's idea. I live in constant fear of nuclear war and the technology that has made it available. But, I am grateful for the medical advances we have today. It is a double-edge sword. (I am not implying that Aylmer is an evil man, I do not think he is aware of the chaos he can arouse. In fact, he is merely concerned with progress and saving humans from their own mortality and "humanness".)

There is one imparticular line from the story that I sound most engaging:
Hawthorne's description "The scenery and the figures of actual life were perfectly represented, but with that bewitching, yet indescribably difference, which always makes a picture, an image, or a shadow, so much more attractive than the original." When I read this I stopped mid-story. This is a common theme throughout Romantic poetry I have encountered. Immediately it reminded me of Shelly's "To A Sky-Lark" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by Keats. Both of the

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