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"The Young Goodman Brown” & “The Rocking-Horse Winner”

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2536 words Published: 28th Sep 2017

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Thesis: Compare and contrast short stories The Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence’s

  1. Introduction
  2. Body.

Compare and Contrast:

  1. Conflict/Plot/Structure
  2. Settings
  3. Characterization
  4. Theme/Authors’ Purposes
  5. Tone/Style/Irony/Symbol
  1. Introduction

The Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence’s are more different than similar though they both illustrate the long life fight between good and evil. Moreover, both of them demonstrate the need to be responsible, whether you are parent and need to look after your children, or the moral responsibility that comes from your ethical foundation. In both stories the main character looses his innocence by acting not the way he supposed to or making decisions not up to his worldview. There are outstanding similarities in the themes of “Young Goodman Brown” and “The Rocking House”. However, there are also several distinctions what make each story brilliant.

II. Body

The conflict in the story by Lawrence involves the mother not feeling pleased by life, because she believes she got into an unlucky family. This feeling of unhappiness brought her to the idea that she feels no love to her children and to her husband. The conflict of the story develops the theme: her son Paul can feel the tension in the house. What is more, he hears the house talking “there must be more money”. So Paul rides his rocking-horse until he goes till the end, the end of his life.

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On the other hand, in the story by Hawthorne the conflict stays between pride and humility, what also stays close to the beginning or to the end ( because his journey into the forest most of all is an allegory which represents the man’s irrational desire to leave his faith.) However, the main conflict of “Young Goodman Brown” is the man versus himself. The conflict that Brown suffers during his journey in the woods is internal what is shown through the details (projections of his unconscious). The devil’s arguments appeared from Brown himself, because when the echoes of the forest mocked him, Brown is projecting his emotional state onto the forest.

The setting of Young Goodman Brown is based on the historical background. Moreover, “Young Goodman Brown” takes place during the Puritan Time Period. The action is set within borders of the Salem Village near the old heathen forest. This information makes the reader think of isolation, firstly because the Salem Village was associated with things not similar to Christianity. What is more, the wild and heathen forest itself is the setting which creates the image of evil powers and witchcraft. The forest setting symbolizes the devil, cause it was believed that the forest was the devil’s home.

On the other hand, the setting is very different in “The Rocking-Horse Winner”, where the author does not state the information, the date or time on the story. One can assume that the story takes place somewhere in England, in the times after World War I. The story takes place at home in the area reader does not know about (near or in London). In addition, Lawrence describes the major races in England – in Liverpool, Surrey, South Yorkshire etc. Compared to Goodman’s journey where the setting graduates from light to darkness as he travels, the house (the main setting) in The Rocking-Horse Winner becomes haunted as it absorbs the evil emotions (greed, self-pity) of the mother. So each story is rich with symbols that represent the contrast between good and evil.

The protagonist of the story by Lawrence is Paul, other characters are uncle Oscar and mother Hester. Paul is a very young boy who tries to find “luck”, meaning money for his mother. He begins to ride his rocking horse furiously, even though he has outgrown it, what shows his attitude towards his mother. After making an outstanding amount of money, his mother stays still unhappy. Moreover, Hester (Paul’s mother) is incapable of loving others. She does not give much love to her children, so Paul tries to win not only money but also her love and attention. Hester is not only obsessed with money, but she is also irresponsible with the money she does get. However, instead of paying her debts, she spends the money on new things for the house. She also does not express any thanks for this sudden windfall, what defines her negative personality. On the other hand, very generous Paul seems completely unaware that he has overtaken responsibilities that are rightly his parents.

In the “Young Goodman Brown” the protagonist is also a developing character. Moreover, the main character Goodman Brown also shows his innocence as he exists between crowd thinking opinion (belief in inherent goodness) and on the other hand the belief in devil who took the minds of his loved ones. He goes from being confident in his ability to choose rather good than evil, but once he stands before Devil’s altar, he can no longer believe that good always prevails. The character becomes a profoundly disillusioned man who sees wickedness everywhere, including in those closest to him. Another character of the story – the Devil, is also developing character. The reader comes to see him as the darker side of Young Goodman Brown’s character. Other charecters – Goode Cloyse, The Minister and Deacon Gookin serve as dramatic examples of the hypocrisy that may hide in the souls of those who appear most virtuous. These three are distinguished from among the crowd of townsfolk at the gathering because they represent a standard of piety and godliness that is destroyed for Brown by his experience.

There are several themes in the story by Lawrence such as


The obsession with wealth and material items is pitted against the responsibilities of parenting in “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” It is the responsibility of the parents to provide for the children in a family.

  • Generosity and Greed;

The disparity between Paul’s generosity and his mother’s greed is another theme of “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” Paul generously offers all his winnings to the family, in order to relieve the family’s dire need for money. When the mother first receives the news from the lawyer that she has “inherited” 5,000 pounds from a long-lost relative which will be paid out to her in yearly increments of 1,000 pounds (a scheme dreamed up by Paul), she does not inform the family of their good fortune. Instead, she goes immediately to the lawyer and asks to receive the entire amount right away.

  • Oedipus Complex.

Oedipus Complex Paul’s desire to earn money for the family can be said to be an unconscious desire to take his father’s place, a concept that psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud termed the “Oedipus complex.” Since the main way of earning this money—the rocking horse—is also bound up in sexual imagery, it seems clear that Lawrence intentionally characterizes Paul this way.

There are several themes in the story by Hawthorne also, such as:

  • Guilt versus innocence;
  • Alienation versus community;
  • Good versus evil.

In the story “Young Goodman Brown,” Hawthorne unveils the moral vitiation that is a direct result from the highlighting of public morality with a Puritan Society. So the dominant theme of the short story is the inadequacy of public morality what is similar in “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” This theme is demonstrated in the actions of Brown. For example, when the protagonist sees Goody Cloyse, or hears the voices of the Deacon Gookin and the minister. Goodman Brown had already made the decision to go inside the forest and face the devil, but he hides when other characters enter this scene. He seems to be more worried with the way others perceive his faith, then with the fact that he actually made a step to meet up with the devil. Goodman Brown does not have the genuine faith, but he has one made up of the religious convictions of people surrounding him. Such faith is not real and just gives a wrong foundation to the believer.

The style and tone of “The Rocking-Horse Winner” reveal immediately that this story comes from the world of fable and legend. The distant, solemn tone of the narrator: “There was a woman who was beautiful,” signals us that this is an old story. Quickly it becomes apparent that this is a quest narrative of some sort. The boy hero will try to win the love of the distant queen/mother.

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Themes tries to deliver the moral message to the reader what clearly reminds us of a fable. Fable is usually written with animals in it, that is told to illustrate a moral. For example, in “The Rocking-Horse Winner,” Uncle Oscar tells Paul, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. This suggests that what we already have is more valuable than what we want but have not yet acquired. Moral message is also delivered in the short story by Hawthorne – the collective thinking does not make you who you are. The morality is something what every person can hold to and not following the crowd will make you who you are.

Furthermore, Lawrence uses a lot of ironic situations throughout the story, for example the title; was Paul really a winner? Paul, felt unloved and unwanted, though he tried to bring happiness his mother. Love arouses the deep emotional balance and when it is lacked, brings about irrational behavior. Lawrence uses irony and symbols to lure the reader in and force to read all pages of the story until the last one with excitement. The symbolism in this story is very sexually oriented. The rocking horse represents both Paul’s desire to make money for his mother and his own sexuality.

In “Young Goodman Brown” the grip of deceit on both the physical and spiritual elements of life is also the theme revealed through irony, symbolism and allegory. In the story by Hawthorne Puritanism is to be satirized, because it was the main faith of his home town – Salem Village. Hawthorne views Puritanism in a way to suggest dissatisfaction with it as a system of belief.

Talking about the setting of Young Goodman Brown, it is possible to say that the story clearly provides the information on the historical insight into the major characters and their lifetime activities. Thus, “Young Goodman Brown” takes place in the 17th century during the Puritan Time Period. He lives in the Salem Village, Massachusetts near the old heathen forest. This information gives the reader an idea about deviltry and isolation because at that time the Salem Village was associated with things, which were not connected to Christianity or some other “good” things. In addition, the forest setting (wild and heathen) supports the idea of evil and witchcraft that pervades the story. In this case, the forest setting is a symbol of the devil’s abode. At that time, it was believed that the woods were the devil’s habitat.

On the other hand, “The Rocking-Horse Winner” does not provide the reader with the clear information (date or time) on the story. We can just know that the story takes place in England immediately after World War I. The places where the story took place include only a home in an unknown location (near or in London), Lincolnshire, London’s Richmond Park, and Hampshire County. In addition, the author of the story tells about the major races in England that were held in Liverpool, Surrey, South Yorkshire, and more.

Focusing our attention on the setting of “Young Goodman Brown,” it is possible to say that it presents a gloomy atmosphere where horrid sounds, perverted stones, clouds and awful images of trees bring the reader to a horrible and dark atmosphere, which pervades the story. Brown walks into “…the woods, but then soon crosses the border into Allegoryland where witches and wizards fly through the night to attend a Black Sabbath” (Graham 70). In this case, danger becomes very real because of an atmosphere of suspicion and fear.

In contrast to “Young Goodman Brown”, the atmosphere of “The Rocking-Horse Winner” is not so much gloomy and dark. In turn, the story’s atmosphere is relatively tense due to the fact that Paul is eager to become lucky in order to help his mother since she states that her husband (his father) does not satisfy her major needs and expectations. Additionally, he is unlucky, and thus, makes her unlucky as well. Therefore, Paul decides to become lucky in order to assist his mother and make her happy. As he experiences the lack of love, in return, he expects to receive some type of love from a mother. Moreover, the story deals with how Paul’s parents, especially her mother obsess with material wealth rather than showing true love to her children. She is greatly obsessed with money, very greedy and irresponsible. This story clearly shows a certain lifestyle where persons are more concerned about money that symbolizes the lack of love and affection. Throughout the story, we can see how Paul is eager to help her mother even to the point where he loses his own life. All these facts make the story’s atmosphere bitter and sympathetic. In turn, Ege admits that “The Rocking-Horse Winner” “…contains the fairy-tale atmosphere of imagination” (47). Supporting this point of view, it is possible to say that the story truly includes fairy-tale elements and “opens with the singsong voice of a fairy tale” (Ege 43).

However, both characters are affected by the atmosphere that influences their behaviors and attitudes (for instance, making them emotional or creating a mood of fear). The major similarity of atmosphere between these two stories is that both ones have a fantastic and mysterious atmosphere. For instance, in “The Rocking-Horse Winner,” Paul has a spiritual gift and is able to hear an unknown voice, which tells him the name of the next horse that will win the race. In turn, Brown communicates with the devil, who reads him preaching about wicked priests and stewards, convincing him that every person is sinful from his or her birth.

Taking the above-mentioned information into consideration, it is possible to draw a conclusion that the two observed stories have some things in common in respect of the setting and atmosphere. These are the two powerful and instructive stories, which show the readers that the love of money is a destructive force, as well as the relationship with the evil may lead to a loss of confidence and social isolation.


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