Explain how Faith in "Young Goodman Brown," Georgiana in "The Birthmark," and Elizabeth in "The Minister's Black Veil" are used to reveal some truth about the central male characters in each story. 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The three women of Nathaniel Hawthorne's stories are earthly, but intuitive counterpoints to the male characters who challenge spiritual forces, believing that they can overcome by sheer force of will the obstacles that they face.

  • The women sense there is something unnatural about their husbands' desires

"Young Goodman Brown"

Worried that her husband will encounter more danger than he can overcome in the forest primeval, Faith urges her husband to "tarry" on the night that he wishes to go, for it is as if

a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight.

But, Goodman is not afraid of testing his spiritual faith because he feels himself among the elect, telling her, "My journey...must needs be done 'twixt now and sunrise" and, as the good wife, she obeys him by saying no more.

"The Birthmark"

Like Faith, Georgiana is disingenuous and trusting. Her intuition also tells her that there is something ominously incongruous to the natural order of things in her husband's obsession with removing her birthmark, and she tries to discourage him. 

His love for his young wife might prove the stronger of the two; but it could only be by intertwining itself with his love of science, and uniting the strength of the latter to his own.

"The Minister's Black Veil"

After Mr. Hooper dons the black veil that conceals his face, greatly disturbing the congregation by this action, so much so that they no longer invite him to preside over weddings and such. When the minister's fiancee visits him, entreating him to remove his veil, Mr. Hooper, like Goodman Brown and Alymer, is adamant that he must continue his actions. 

  • The overpowering desires and actions of the husbands result in destruction

"Young Goodman Brown"

Goodman Brown loses his Faith literally and spiritually after his disillusion with his Puritan Calvinistic beliefs.

...he had lived long, and was borne to his grave a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an aged woman....for his dying hour was gloom.

Similarly, Mr. Hooper loses his fiancee Elizabeth as she cannot abide by his cloistering of his emotions and faith behind his veil. For, she has lost the minister to his introverted soul that is forever troubled by the Calvinistic tenet of predestination. As a result, a "preternatural horror" develops in Elizabeth, as well as in the congregation for the black crepe. 

"The Birthmark"

The "disastrous topic" of the mark on Georgiana's cheek causes her husband Alymer "more trouble and horror" than her beauty. When he shudders upon looking at it in an obsession like that of Mr. Hooper with the black veil, Georgiana acquiesces to his desire as do the other wives,

Cannot you remove this little, little mark, which I cover with the tips of two small fingers?  Is this beyond your power for the sake of your own peace, and to save your poor wife from madness?"

The result of Alymer's exceeding the bounds of humanity is the loss of his wife and, like Goodman, "living once for all in eternity, to find the perfect furture in the present" he is left without hope and love.

"The Minister's Black Veil"

Having already lost Elizabeth, Mr. Hooper has become isolated and alone in the "gathered terrors of a lifetime" behind his facial shroud of black. As the minister chastises the "circle of pale spectators," exhorting that they, too, wear a veil of secret sins, he is destroyed by his obsession with fate and the indeterminate nature of his Puritan theology that has tortured him endlessly until he dies.



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Young Goodman Brown

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