Young Goodman Brown, Fall Of The House Of Usher, Rip Van Winkle Summaries Essay, Research Paper
In the early eighteen hundreds, literature in the Americas started a revolution of style in upcoming authors. Authors started to look towards nature for symbolism and society as a source of sin. The underlined meaning in most of these stories was meant to leave the reader with a new perspective of their personal lives and society as a whole. Three stories that use this particular technique are Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” Edgar Allen Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher,” and Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle.
“Young Goodman Brown”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a story of a man named Goodman Brown, who is of strong Puritan belief. Goodman Brown leaves his wife, Faith, to travel into the depths of the woods one dark night led by a stranger. Goodman Brown is led to some secret meeting in the woods, where some of his fellow villagers are present. At this point in the story Goodman brown discovers that he is about to unravel hidden parts of the villagers’ lives. “This night it shall be granted to you to know their secret deeds…”(946).
Goodman Brown feels out of place and worried that his fellow Puritans would have secret hidden sins. The conflict for Goodman Brown comes in his decision whether he should join in the circle of sin and be like the rest of his village or hold true to his beliefs and reject any attempt to be persuaded. The climax of the story comes when Goodman Brown decides to stick by his religion and not to enter the circle of sin even though his wife, Faith, is a part of the sinning group. “Faith! Faith!…look up to heaven and resist the wicked one”(947). The denouement of Goodman Brown is tragic in an off beat sense. Goodman Brown holds to his beliefs like most people would be expected to, but his beliefs reflect the way he feels towards others in his society. The only person that felt any different from that night in the woods was Goodman Brown. As he entered the village he saw Faith gazing anxiously forth any sign of him.. Once she saw him, she burst into such joy at sight of him that she skipped along the street and almost kissed her husband before the whole village. But Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a greeting”(947). Goodman Brown is then punished the rest of his life, due to his unrealistic belief that everyone is perfect and no one sins. Goodman Brown is very distrustful to everyone in his community and ironically creates his own hell.
“The Fall of the House of Usher”, by Edgar Allen Poe, is about a man named Roderick Usher and the insanity that he experiences after the death of his sister Madeline. The narrator of the story is an old friend of Roderick and visits him in his time of grief and misery.
On the night the narrator arrives, Roderick’s sister Madeline finally passes away. Roderick is very disturbed by his sister’s death. Roderick begins to go insane after the burial of his sister. Stricken with guilt, he starts to believe that she is still alive in her tomb. The narrator tries to calm Roderick by reading him a story entitled “Mad Twist.” This story is very ironic to the situation that the narrator is resolving. “It was, however, the only book immediately at hand: and I indulged a vague hope that the excitement which now agitated the hypochondriac, might find relief (for the history of mental disorder is full of similar anomalies) even in the extremes of the folly which I should read”(774). As the narrator reads deeper into the story, Roderick believes even stronger that his sister is coming from the grave to get him. It is at this point in the story that the narrator starts to get spooked by Roderick’s insanity. “No sooner had these syllables passed my lips, than –as if a shield of brass had indeed, at the moment, fallen heavily upon the floor of silver –I became aware of a distinct, hollow, metallic, and clangorous, yet apparently muffled reverberation”(776). The conflict that the narrator has is to resist being pulled into Roderick’s insanity and misery about his dear sister, Madeline.
The Climax of the story comes when the deceased Madeline bursts through the windows of Roderick’s study and attacks Roderick. The narrator at this point in the story runs to save himself. The question that is often debated over is whether the narrator was running away from the corpse of Madeline or if it was the insanity of Roderick Usher. The denouement of the story is the narrator standing outside the House of Usher thinking of the sad fate that both Roderick and Madeline suffer as the house crumbles on top of them. “While I gazed, this fissure rapidly widened –there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind –the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight –my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder –there was a ling tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters –and the deep and dark tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the House of Usher”(777).
Washington Irving’s story “Rip Van Winkle” is about a simple village man that lives his life under the rule of the British. His everyday activities consist of conversing with other villagers in a local Inn. “The children, too, would shout with joy whenever he approached”(621).
Rip Van Winkle’s wife Dame Van Winkle unfortunately nagged him to do a bunch of choirs. Rip decides to go off into the woods with his dog Wolf and his gun to get away from his wife. Rip stumbles across a gentleman who directs Rip to a tavern where he gets excessively drunk and passes out. When Rip awakens he walks back to his town only to discover that there is something different about his village. “At length he reached to where the ravine had opened through the cliffs to the amphitheatre; but no traces of such opening remained”(626). Rip decides to move onward through the town to his familiar Inn, which to his dismay is replaced by another building. Rip doesn’t get discouraged and moves along the town until he comes to the nearest Inn where he can have a few drinks and talk to the villagers. When he approaches the Inn, he notices that he doesn’t know anyone there. “There was, as usual, a crowd of folk about the door, but none that Rip recollected. The very character of the people seemed to change”(627). Rip’s conflict in the story is the ability for him to understand that he has been asleep for many years and most of the people he used to know are no longer around.
The climax in the story comes when Rip tries to have a conversation with a gentleman in the Inn, who seems to be in a big political discussion. Rip politely refers to himself as being “a loyal subject of the king, God bless him!”(628). The man reacts to Rip in a hostile manner screaming “A tory! a tory! a spy! a refugee! hustle him! away with him”(628). Rip explains that fact that he is from the town many years ago.
The denouement of the story is a lot of meaning to it. Rip at the end of the story still goes on with his everyday activities by drinking and conversing with the folk. However, Rip unlike all the others stays out of serious affairs and tries to live a happy life.
Even though not all of the following stories had happy endings all of them had very important underlined meanings. These meanings dealt with the different aspects of live and their force of influence. These stories dealt with unexplained mysteries, imagination of characters, and the influence of nature. Each character had a certain conflict to confront or over come and each other their fates in the story explains the author’s points of individual and societal problems.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel,”Young Goodman Brown.” Anthology of American Literautre. Ed. George McMicheal et al 2 vols. 7th ed.New York: Macmillan, 2000. Vol.1. 938-948
Irving,Washingtion.”Rip Van Winkle.” Anthology of American Literautre. Ed. George McMicheal et al 2 vols. 7th ed.New York: Macmillan, 2000. Vol.1. 619-632
Poe,Edgar Allen.”Fall of the House of Usher.” Anthology of American Literautre. Ed. George McMicheal et al 2 vols. 7th ed.New York: Macmillan, 2000. Vol.1. 763-777