The Concept of Piety in “Young Goodman Brown” and “Jilting of Granny Weatherall”

Sample Term Paper

Words 1,300

What does it mean to honor the divine? There can be no single answer to this question because feelings of piety are very different from one person to another. Moreover, different gods require different obsequies from their followers. Nathanial Hawthorne, in his story “Young Goodman Brown,” and Katherine Anne Porter in the “Jilting of Granny Weatherall” ask us to consider, or to reconsider, our own definition of piety by presenting us with characters who are forced to do the same.

Nathanial Hawthorne dedicated much of his work as a writer to the goal of questioning the Puritan heritage of the United States and “Young Goodman Brown”, as much as any of the author’s works, calls into question the meaning of piety in a theocratic world. At the center of this story is Young Goodman Brown himself, a man who is both pious and sure of the way in which the world should work. Indeed, in many ways, the entire story – up to the very last lines – is a description of the way in which a pious Puritan man should view the world.

That world is strictly divided into a series of opposing pairs. There is the world of the Christian (and in particular of the Puritan) and the world of the pagan – symbolized primarily in Hawthorne’s by the religions of the New World’s indigenous peoples but also by the Catholics and other Protestant sects. There is the world of civilization and the town and outside of the town’s borders, there is the world of wilderness, of untamed nature that is fundamentally allied with the pagan spirit of the people who live so easily in the wild places. There is the world of daytime, in which order can be maintained, and there is the world of night, in which order is overcome by chaos. There is the world of men, which is also allied with the world of the church and the town, with the institutions of orderliness and law. And there is the world of women, which is allied (or can become allied all too easily) with what is pagan and dangerous and uncontrollable.

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