11 Feb 2016
Social Pressures and Secret Desires
In the short stories “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne and “The story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin both works have an underlying theme of strength in morality and social pressure. In both works the authors show in their characters a sense of wanting, but not knowing how to pursue their desires.
In “Young Goodman Brown,” Hawthorne reveals what he sees as the corruptibility that results from Puritan society’s emphasis on public morality, which often weakens private religious faith. Although Goodman Brown has decided to come into the forest and meet with the devil, he still hides when he sees Goody Cloyse and hears the minister and Deacon Gookin. He seems more concerned with how his faith appears to other people than with the fact that he has decided to meet with the devil. Goodman Brown’s religious convictions are rooted in his belief that those around him are also religious. This kind of faith, which depends so much on other people’s views, is easily weakened. When Goodman Brown discovers that his father, grandfather, Goody Cloyse, the minister, Deacon Gookin, and Faith are all in league with the devil, Goodman Brown quickly decides that he might as well do the same. Hawthorne seems to suggest that the danger of basing a society on moral principles and religious faith lies in the fact that members of the society do not arrive at their own moral decisions. When they copy the beliefs of the people around them, their faith becomes weak and rootless.
Similarly, in “The Story of an Hour,” independence is a forbidden pleasure that can be imagined only privately. When Louise hears from Josephine and Richards of Brently’s death, she reacts with obvious grief, and although her reaction is perhaps more violent than other women’s, it is an appropriate one. Alone, however, Louise begins to realize that she is now an independent woman, a realization that enlivens and excites her. Even though these are her private thoughts, she at first tries to squelch the joy she feels, to “beat it back with her will.” Such resistance reveals how forbidden this pleasure really is. When she finally does acknowledge the joy, she feels possessed by it and must abandon herself to it as the word free escapes her lips. Louise’s life offers no refuge for this kind of joy, and the rest of society will never accept it or understand it. Extreme circumstances have given Louise a taste of this forbidden fruit, and her thoughts are, in turn, extreme. She sees her life as being absolutely...