The Theme Of Religion In “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” And “Young Goodman Brown”
As we explore the differences and similarities of “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” and “Young Goodman Brown” our focus will remain on how the theme of religion is portrayed throughout the stories. Religion is defined as “shared collections of transcendental beliefs that have been passed on from believers to converts, that are held by adherents to be actively meaningful and serious and either based on formally documented doctrine or established cultural practices”. Both stories illustrate the theme of religion in different ways. In the story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, religion is seen as moral framework that has become hypocritical. On the other hand, in the story written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, genuine religion is void.
In the story “Young Goodman Brown,” religion is portrayed as a way of life that has gone corrupt, while in “The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” the author seems to portray religion as unimportant by mocking the Catholic church. Throughout the story “Young Goodman Brown” the narrator suggests society has become corrupt because of the Puritan society’s emphasis on public morality, which is weakening individuals’ faith in their religion. The story was written to show the flaws of how the Puritans view religion.
In this story the individuals are defined by their religions. The characters’ faith is their focus; it’s what their life revolves around. Throughout the story we see that the members of the Puritan society are either walking the straight and narrow path following the Lord, or meeting the Devil in the dark and gloomy forest to worship him. At the beginning of the story, Young Goodman Brown is planning to leave his wife Faith to go on a trip to meet the devil in the woods, but Faith begs him not to go.
In Young Goodman Brown’s eyes Faith is the pure and genuine. After she begs him not to leave, he still proceeds on his journey. At this point in the story, Young Goodman Brown goes to meet with the devil. He knows he is going on a journey filled with evil, but he thinks he will be able to return home and live as a good man with his perfect wife and act as if he is the ideal Puritan. Through this action, the author demonstrates that individuals should avoid temptation. While in the woods with the devil, Young Goodman Brown sees Goody Cloyse, who he knows to be a pious, admired woman from the village. Goodman Brown hides because he is ashamed of what he is doing and doesn’t want a Puritan like Goody Cloyse to see. We can conclude that the author intended for this incident to show how religious people like to put up a front by hiding things that they do and say from the people that are supposed to be of the same religion. As Goodman Brown is hiding, to his surprise, Goody Cloyse identifies the man as the devil and reveals herself to be a witch, on her way to the devil’s ceremony. After telling himself he will not go to the ceremony, he ends up caving because he thinks he hears his wife and other family members at the event. Once he is at the ceremony, he finds the entire town, including his precious Faith, are indeed at the devil’s meeting, and are “friends of the devil”.
Quicky after witnessing this shock, Goodman Brown concludes that there is no longer good on earth. When Goodman Brown returns to the town, he is bitter and gloomy. He distrusts the good appearances of everyone around him. He, now sees sin everywhere.
Based off Brown’s conclusion, I believe that the author is trying to show that religion is filled with a bunch of hypocrites who aren’t who that say they are. However, Goodman Brown may just be deceived. No one is perfect, as Brown imagined his wife and many others to be, but that is human nature. This goes on to show some degree of evil nature is in everyone because of their own free will.
Here the author depicts his most prominent criticism of Puritanism. Goodman Brown believes that his time in the forest has forced him to realize all the lies told by his religion. Therefore, he abandons Puritanism and becomes absent to his family and town. Brown lives out the rest of his life filled of suspicion and sadness. Then the story suggests that the underlying issue is the way that religion demands perfect goodness or eternally damned sin.
By writing this, the author illustrates that we should follow our religion wholeheartedly or not at all. It’s a way of life, but not when we are fake. Being hypocritical when it comes to religion leads to corruption. We see this when Young Goodman Brown abandons it. Meanwhile, in the story “The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” religion is portrayed in a very different way. The story was written to mock religion and the Catholic Church. Evidence of this would be when the town people do not respect the angel since he did not match their preconceptions of how an angel should act or appear. In fact, the people let him suffer. They locked him in a chicken coop, threw things at him, and poked him. To add to this argument, we can look at how the priest reacts to the fallen angel. The priest fails to protect the angel from the townspeople because he is more focused on sending letters to the church authorities. In this way, the author suggests that faith in religion is easily swayed.
Another shot we see fired by the author to sham religion would be the showcasing of the angel. This part of the story is used to shed light on the idea of religion being used to make money, as taking up admission to see the angel is like charging to witness a miracle or the shameful act of selling indulgences. In addition, rather than helping the angel, the local priest examines the angel and determines that the angel couldn’t possibly be genuine. His evidence for his assumption is the angel’s failure to speak Latin, and the angel’s “much too human” appearance. The priest suggests that the old man does not “measure up to the proud dignity of angels”. This was intended to be irony. The author was trying to tease about the fact that not even a priest could determine if the creature was an angel or not.
Also another dig the author uses against religion is proposing that the town people fall short when it comes to having genuine faith because of the Catholic church setting a poor example. In this story the people are more likely to live by the town’s gossip and ideas, rather than relying on a religious belief. Based on this evidence, we can clearly see that the author only intended to mock religion when he was writing this story. It is ironic that both these authors had different perceptions on religion because the Puritan faith actually extends from the Catholic Church. While we see that both the authors had different thoughts and intentions in their writings about religion, they were also similar in that they suggest there are flaws in religion. One story ridicules the Catholic church, while the other ridicules the ways of the Puritan society. On some level, the authors would agree that religion is somewhat failing. The main difference of the stories is that Hawthorne shows that religion is important to live by, but it’s also very flawed due to the changes in it. While Marquez suggest that religion is nonsense because he actually mocks the Catholic Church.