“Young Goodman Brown” – Poverty in the Tale and Author’s Life
Roy Harvey Pearce in “Twice-Told Tales: A Blend of Stories” makes reference to the widely-known poverty of the aspiring writer,Nathaniel Hawthorne: “True enough, Hawthorne planned more than once to write groups of tales and sketches somehow linked into a whole; but he could not get a publisher for them. When he did get a publisher in 1837, it had to be through the help of the hack-editor, Samuel Goodrich. . . .” (107) Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” includes traits of the modest lifestyle which the author was forced to endure in his personal life. Besides this, there was also an artisitc-resources impoverishment because of the tiny town in which he lived.
Henry Seidel Canby in “A Skeptic Incompatible with His Time and His Past” mentions of Hawthorne that “human failures and their causes were more interesting to him than prophecies of success, one might truly say than success itself. …He was not, I think, really interested in escape, except in moods of financial discouragement. . . . (57). Such moods of financial discouragement were to plague the author for nearly his entire lifetime.
Hawthorne’s financial impoverishment probably began with the untimely death of his father, and continued for most of his life. Gloria C. Erlich in “The Divided Artist and His Uncles” states that “Robert Manning made the essential decisions in the lives of the Hawthorne children and is well known as the uncle who sent Hawthorne to college” (35). After graduation from Bowdoin College, Hawthorne spent twelve years in his room at home in an intense effort to make something of himself literarily. The Norton Anthology: American Literature states:
Hawthorne’s years between 1825 and 1837 have fascinated his biographers and critics. Hawthorne himself took pains to propogate the notion that he had lived as a hermit who left his upstairs room only for nighttime walks and hardly communicated even with his mother and sisters (547).
Sculley Bradley, Richmond Croom Beatty and E. Hudson Long in “The Social Criticism of a Public Man” consider his poverty a determining influence in his life: “…a young man engrossed in historical study and in learning the writer’s craft is not notably queer if he does not seek society or marriage, especially if he is poor” (47-48). Fame was slow in coming for the author, likewise prosperity. Clarice Swisher in “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography” explains in great detail the unfortunate financial uncertainty which he survived due to a friend:
But when His second set of tales was ready for publication, again Hawthorne could find no one to publish them as a collection. He sent them to Samuel G. Goodrich, the editor of Token, an annual gift book, but Goodrich was interested only in individual stories. Goodrich published one story in 1831, and in 1832 he published “The Gentle Boy” (for which he paid Hawthorne...