In Puritan Massachusetts the key word was suspicion. In order to be accepted, by the community, you had to be a member of the “elect,” destined for a spot in the eternity of heaven. In order to be member of this elite group of “selected” individuals you had to be free of sin and evil. It goes without saying, that you could never be caught conjuring the devil, as is illustrated by the horrors of the infamous Salem witch trials. In Young Goodman Brown, and Rappacini’s Daughter Nathaniel Hawthorne portrays two different ways of soliciting or being solicited by the devil.
The final scenes in both of these stories although similar in nature, are actually conflicting in essence, and show the two adverse ways in which people and evil can become one. In Young Goodman Brown, the protagonist, Goodman Brown goes off on a typical search for the devil. The devil is associated with darkness and terror, a creature only to be sought after while enveloped in the darkness of the night. As Goodman Brown himself replies to Faith’s longing for him to wait until morning to embark on his journey, “My journey needst be done twixt now and sunrise” (611).
Goodman Brown knows exactly what he is going to look for, he is searching for evil. He goes to the forest to do his deed and “he had taken a dreary road darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest” to get there(611). Goodman Brown is willingly seeking the devil, and Hawthorne is throwing in all the stereotypes. This entire search for the devil is portrayed as being very ugly. What then is pretty? In Young Goodman Brown beauty equals inherent goodness, or Faith. Young Goodman Brown separates from this righteousness, for evil.
From the beginning, he was leaving, at least for the time being, Faith behind. And Faith, as the wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the soft ribbons of her cap” (610). The beauty of faith and her pink ribbons are left behind, his intentions are obvious. In Rappacini’s Daughter Giovanni does none of this. He never went out searching for the devil, all he wanted to do was study in Padua. The devil was not obvious to Giovanni, it went after him, and he did not even know it.
Giovanni’s first glimpse of the “devil’s lair” is considerably different of that of Goodman Brown. Instead of a dreary, dark forest, Giovanni saw Eden. Water which continued to gush and sparkle into the sunbeams as cheerfully as ever. A little gurgling sound ascended to the young man’s window, and made him feel as if the fountain were an immortal spirit that sung its song unceasingly and without heeding the vicissitudes around it. ” (628). Instead of his first human encounter being with a devilish man with slithering snake on his staff, Giovanni met the beautiful Beatrice (614).
Beatrice was as beautiful as the devil was ugly. Giovanni glanced into the garden and “Soon there emerged from under a sculptured portal he figure of a young girl, arrayed with as much richness of taste as the most splendid of flowers, beautiful as the day, and with a bloom so deep and vivid that one shade more would have been too much. She looked redundant with life, health, and energy” (629). In Rappacini’s Daughter instead of beauty equaling faith, it equals the Devil, or the evil that Beatrice really represented. This is not as clear cut as Young Goodman Brown.
There in order to “be with the devil” you had to go searching for him/her. In Rappacini’s Daughter, however, the Devil came to Giovanni. Furthermore he came in the form of a beautiful oman… a frightening concept. Young Goodman Brown is told in the first person narrative. It is therefore from one persons point of view. It is a warning of what could happen to you if you stray from probity, and your moral ideals. All the decisions were clearly made by Brown himself, and his plight can be avoided. Rappacini’s Daughter, however, is told in the a third person narrative.
It is not from one person’s point of view, it is a universal problem which has consequences for the entire human race. The devil does not always look as he is supposed to, and is not easily recognizable. He can enthrall you with splendor, rather than trap you with terror . The devil can get you anyway he wants, he has agents to do his bidding. As Beatrice mournfully explains to Giovanni “But my father,- he has united us in this fearful sympathy” (644). The story is called Rappacini’s Daughter event though Beatrice seems to be a functioning individual.
Should not the story be called Beatrice? No. Giovanni was tricked as he thought Beatrice was “a tender warmth of girlish womanhood. She was human” (638). All Beatrice really represents is Rappacini’s, or the devil’s messenger sent to trap the good, nsuspecting Giovanni, an unavoidable fate. Young Goodman Brown certainly knew the difference between faith and evil. He, however, wanted the best of both worlds to remain intact. In fact he promises himself that “after this night I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven” (611).
All he wants is this one night of evil, and then he will return to the faith, and cling onto his wife. Brown wants to keep faith and evil as two separate distinct entities. Giovanni, however realizes that they are not two separate things, and that you must choose one or the other, as he says about Beatrice “whatever mist of evil might see to have gathered over her, the real Beatrice was a heavenly angel” (643). Giovanni knew that Beatrice could not be both good and bad so he was trying to decipher what exactly she was.
Similarly with Rappacini’s garden there are aspects which point in each direction. Originally Giovanni had thought of the plants as beautiful, until he realized that they were in actuality poison. They had to be one or the other, there could not be independent elements of both within the garden. That is why Giovanni had to know whether Beatrice’s breath was poison or beauty. He had to know which path she had chosen. Brown, however, until the very end wanted to keep good and evil as two perpetual different entities and options.
As Brown was looking up in the forest where he was deciding his fate he saw at first what he wanted. Brown looked up and saw that “The blue sky was still visible, except directly overhead, where this black mass of cloud was sweeping swiftly northward” (615). To Brown this was perfect he could still see his faith but the black clouds, evil, had temporarily moved in for a quick but exciting storm. Only when the “dark cloud wept away, leaving the clear and silent sky above… and something fluttered lightly down through the air… and beheld a pink ribbon” did he realize that he was mistaken (614).
The clouds had left, but the ribbons had fallen from the clouds. Evil had already started over taking faith, they were intertwined and one had to be the victor. Goodman Brown wanted to connect with the devil from the beginning. He did not want to make a complete break from faith, yet he wanted just to experience a little of Satan’s wonderful pleasures. He was going after the devil who was painted so viciously in his catechism. The devil which was worshipped at midnight, in the forest surrounded, by blazing pines. The devil he was brought up despising.
Brown came into the final confrontation with Faith from a forest “which was peopled by frightful sounds, the creaking of trees and the howling of wild beasts”, yet he still heard “church bells tolling in the distance” (615). He wanted both but he could have only one, and on this night nothing was keeping him from the lore of the devil. Goodman Brown stepped forth from his doubts, he “stepped out of the shadow of the trees and approached the congregation with hom he felt a loathful brotherhood by the sympathy of all that was wicked in his heart” (617). Brown wanted to be evil now, but to be good later.
His encounter with Faith at the end illustrated this need precisely. “And there they stood the only pair, as it seemed, who were yet hesitating on the verge of wickedness in this dark world” (618). Goodman Brown did not know whether he should commit himself, as well as his Faith to a life of evil, or if they should both flee from the altar to the arms of faith. Yet Brown continued in his desire for two separate distinct beings in Faith and evil. For now he wanted the evil, therefore he beseeched Faith crying- “Faith! Faith!… , look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one” (618). Brown thought he had done it.
He thought that he had achieved one night of evil while sustaining his life of peace. All too soon however, it became clear that his choice of evil was the only one he would have, as ” He would often awaken at midnight and shrink from the bosom of Faith… for his dying hour was gloom” (619). This last scene was the portrayal Goodman Brown’s choice of evil and the devil, over faith and his wife. Giovanni had no thoughts the likes of Goodman Brown, so his confrontation with his lover represents something entirely different. Giovanni knew that good and evil could not survive side by side.
He had decided to try and save Beatrice, and himself, from evil. Giovanni thought “might there not still be a hope of his returning within the limits of ordinary nature, and leading Beatrice, the redeemed Beatrice, by the hand” (644)? He had no intention of killing Beatrice. He himself offered to drink the potion with Beatrice as he says “Shall we not quaff it together, and thus be purified from evil” (645)? Surely if he knew that the potion was poison he would not have offered to drink it. Giovanni did the opposite of what Goodman Brown did in his final confrontation.
Giovanni chose good over evil yet, “as poison had been life, the antidote was death”, and he too had to give up his love, his Faith, but through no flaw of his own. Goodman Brown was not an evil person, just a misguided one. He felt that his life would not be complete unless he saw things from both sides of the spectrum. Brown, however did not want to give up the “good” life for this one minute of evil. In Puritan society that, one flirtation with the Devil can cost you everything. Young Goodman Brown abandoned Faith at the altar and deserved his punishment.
For what, however, did Giovanni deserve his cruel fate? After all he had been made eternally evil by Beatrice, who was now dead, rather than good, which was Giovanni’s goal for her. Besides Baglioni himself states to Giovanni that “I tell thee, my poor Giovanni, that Rappacini has a scientific interest in thee. Though hast fallen into fearful hands” (635). The devil was coming after Giovanni, it was not his fault. The last seen in Young Goodman Brown shows the eneric search for the devil, and Goodman Brown is supposed to be used as “what not to do” example for the righteous Puritans.
Yet the last seen in Rappacini’s Daughter is completely different. It portrays a man who had to endure great sorrow through no apparent flaw of his own. This, however, is not the case. Rather in this last confrontation Hawthorne is pointing out a reason for the demise of Giovanni, and at the same time rebuking the always nosy, and homiletic Puritans. Giovanni got in trouble for being too meddlesome. He had to know whether Beatrice was good or evil, and that brought about his downfall.