Friday, July 1, 2011

Coming of Age

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Coming Of Age

Coming of age can be defined as the entrance into adulthood. Some cultures have special ceremonies for young people who are entering adulthood from childhood. The whole idea of these ceremonies is to place an individual into new surroundings of the community he/she lives in. It is the beginning of new responsibilities and understanding as well as gaining access to the society’s secrets. Coming of age is when the individual sees with new eyes and gets a wide understanding of the culture and the spirit of his society.

In two stories, “Young Goodman Brown” and “Araby” the issue of coming of age is discussed. Both stories discuss this issue and show young men entering adulthood desiring to introduce themselves to the world. Both are looking to the church with new eyes, and notice the difference. Even though both stories talk about the church, Goodman Brown focuses more on mixture of culture and faith in the society in general, while Araby looks more on a boy as a person and his needs to determine his holiness in the church.

Young Goodman Brown, a young man entering adulthood introduces himself to his society and the world. On his errand to the adulthood ceremony he comes across different cultures he had never known before. He realizes that his community was corrupt. The church and his society were corrupt. The people in Salem, his village, the Minister, the Deacon and other heads of the state had looked like good Christians, doing good work to prove that they are God’s chosen people, but all of them were followers of the devil by nature.

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During this trip to the devils’ meeting, Goodman Brown meets many people who had good reputation in Salem village and were good Christians. He was however, surprised to see them in the forest. Having been raised in a good Christian family he asked himself questions during his journey. Why was he in the forest and why had he decided to follow the devil. “We have been a race of honest men and good Christians since the days of martyrs; and shall I be the first to the name of Brown that ever took this path and kept”, (15) he asks himself.

The voices in the forest answered and told him that even his father and grandfather were followers of the devil. He was surprised, however, as to why they never spoke about it in the village. His response to those voices is, “We are a people of prayer, and good works to boot, and abide no such wickedness”. (15)

This statement demonstrates Goodman Brown’s innocence but clearly shows that he was now experiencing new ideas, a new culture as well as spirits. This is something he didn’t know before. These were secrets that were hidden from him during his childhood. His parents and the society as a whole never revealed those secrets to him because he was not supposed to know them, anyway.

By joining the adult group as a member of the community, Goodman Brown followed his parents’ race and culture even though naturally it is dirt and corrupt. The dark figure calls all members of the society to join the congregation and to accept the reality that every person is sinful. “ Welcome, my children” said the dark figure, “to the communion of your race. Ye have found thus young your nature and your destiny. My children, look behind you” (60).

By welcoming them to the “communion of your race” he is emphasizing that people are unified by the fact that everyone is evil. The devil figure is like a puritan minister trying to tell everyone that they are evil, but he tells them to accept it, that “evil must be your only happiness” (65), people can live happily if they only realize that evil is the way they are meant to be, and to fight it is useless. The congregation accepts his invitation “in one cry despair and triumph” (65). They are celebrating even though truly they are condemning themselves.

Hawthorne is using religious figures throughout the story. Brown is surprised to realize that those he had looked at as pious are all sinful. He noticed that in Salem Village sin and faith mixed together. He says, “ It was strange to se that the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the saints” (55). Those who go to church everyday are the same people who are followers of devil.

After he returns from the devil’s meeting, Brown looks at the church in a different image, knowing that the minister, deacon and all members are liars. What they do in front of people is not who they are inside their hearts.

James Joyce in his story “Araby” also discusses coming of age. The word ‘araby’ means to orient, to establish yourself and understand what is around you. A young boy in the story reaches adulthood and wants to orient himself to his society. The boy lives in an Irish community where most of the people are Christians. He doesn’t have knowledge about the church and the society. As he grows up, and sees with new eyes, he realizes that the church is the center of Irish community but is kind of dead. The heads of the church are acting against the church. They use the church as a path to satisfy their personal needs and not the needs of the society.

The boy describes the street he lives in as “blind” and that his house stood at the “blind end”. In this description he shows how he doesn’t have any hope for his future. He also uses the image of a dead priest who was a tenant in that house. The priest is shown as having been insensitive to the spiritual needs of his people. His legacy was a collection of books that demonstrated his confusion. There is evidence that he devoted his life to gathering money and materials. He writes, “He had been a very charitable priest in his will he had left all his money to institutions and the furniture if his house to his sister.” (5). By not leaving the money and all his belonging to the church where everything belongs, the priest left no evidence of a life of spiritual influence. The priest’s behavior clearly proves the fact that he used the church as mask to obtain money for personal gain.

People in the society obey the church’s rules. For example the old lady in the story is collecting “used stamps” for the purpose of raising money for the pious. They don’t have a vision to realize that the heads of the church are using the money for their personal interests and not for the society.

As he grows up the boy is determined to follow Christian ways; he has a natural feeling of holiness. Unfortunately, his dreams are not realized. After realizing that his dreams to invest in the church is inconsistent with the actual world the boy is directs his anger not to the church but to himself. He takes it as a personal failure.

Due to these unwelcome surroundings the boy is determined to find some evidence of the loveliness and his dreams tells him to exit the church. The girl next door who he fell in love with became the only point of his faith. After taking a trip to a Bazaar the boy comes to realize that his dreams are not true. In the Bazaar he sees the same symbols of money as in the church. He sees in the “two men were counting money on a salver” (5) a symbol of money in the temple. He allows the pennies to fall from his pocket, the lights in the hall go out; his “church” is in darkness. These symbols of money make him understand, what money means in the world. He realizes that his faith has been blind. He failed completely to see the world as it was. He sees himself as “creative driven and derided by vanity” (5), he sees himself being unsuccessful on his effort to find faith and he is directing the anger at himself as a person and not the society.

Both Young Goodman Brown and the boy in araby are struggling to find the truth about the church. They are facing situations, which are difficult for them to accept. Brown’s come back with the idea that everyone in the society was evil made him very unhappy. The young boy in araby is upset because he failed to accept the reality. He tries to leave the church hoping to find faith in love. At the end he realizes that humans are sinful by nature.


Hawthorne, Nathaniel.“Young Goodman Brown”.Responding to

Literature.Ed.JudithA.Stanford.NewYorkMcGraw,00.161-171. Joyce, James.“Araby”.Responding to Literature.Ed.Judith A. Stanford.New.


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