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The Supernatural Elements in Irving and Hawthorne’s Works

There are obvious similarities in the stories of “Rip Van Winkle” and “Young Goodman Brown” with regard to literary and symbolic elements. Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” tells the story of a hen-pecked husband who wandered and slept deeply in the woods and woke up 20 years later. Similar in a way, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” narrates a seemingly dreamlike experience of Goodman Brown in the midst of an evil ritual in the woods where he and his wife attempted to participate. Both stories tackle the existence of evil and supernatural beings in the world of mortals.

On the other hand, while it is true that both works have numerous similarities in terms of characters and themes, they also consist of differences as both authors try to present their stories in their own way. To have a better understanding and conduct an effective analysis of the similarities and differences in their works, a summary of the stories is provided as follows. Rip Van Winkle Rip Van Winkle starts off by describing in detail the fine landscape and natural beauty of its setting, the Kaatskill Mountains.

Afterwards, it introduces the good-natured man named Rip Van Winkle who was identified to be a descendant of the Peter Stuyvesant. Rip Van Winkled was definitely loved and appreciated by all of his neighbors but his wife Dame Van Winkle. She was a nagger who incessantly tortured Rip with her sharp tongue and daily harangues. She never failed to reprimand him how lazy and worthless he was together with his dog, Wolf. Truly, Rip Van Winkle was indeed idle when it comes to his household and farm. However, the neighbors did not agree so.

Rip Van Winkle was always available and within reach when the neighbors needed some helping with their chores. To escape his wife’s naggings, he usually went out in the woods of Kaatskill with his dog which he treated as his only ally and friend. He even pitied his dog’s similar situation with him, “Poor Wolf . . . thy mistress leads thee a dog’s life of it; but never mind, my lad, whilst I live thou shalt never want a friend to stand by thee” (Hawthorne 7). One evening, somewhere deep in the Kaatskill Mountain, he heard a voice called to him as he was descending the mountain for home.

He heard thunder rolling and encountered several short and stout odd-looking men who invited him for a drink from their keg. After drinking, he went into a deep sleep. Upon waking up, he found himself resting on the same place where he had slept and welcomed the brightness of the sky and the delight of nature around him. He tried to look for his gun and decided to finally go home to his nagging wife but was surprised to see it all worn-out and old. He thought the short men replaced it last night.

When he came back to the town, everything was different and unfamiliar. He could not recognize anybody at all. It was only after some questioning when he finally realized that he had slept off the American Revolution. He had been sleeping for 20 years. When the townspeople found out who he was, together with his son and daughter, they welcomed him home and his daughter asked him to live with her. Young Goodman Brown Young Goodman Brown was a recently married man who went out for the night after bidding goodbye to his dear wife, Faith.

Upon leaving, he took a glance back at her to find her still peeping out the window sadly. He tried to push away his guilt of pursuing an evil plan while he left her that evening by promising to make it up to her someday. As he went through the dark forest wondering if the devil was just around, he became hesitant in furthering his plan on joining some mysterious people in an evil ritual somewhere deep in the forest. After some time, someone in decent attire sitting on the foot of the tree told him he was late.

Upon explaining that his wife kept him back for a while, they were accompanied by another traveler whose age he reckon to be about fifty. He also noticed the remarkable serpent-like staff of the first man who addressed him. Upon meeting the other people who would join them, he was surprised to find out that most of the upright and holy people in his neighborhood were present; the woman who taught him catechism, the minister, Deacon Gookin, and the most surprising of all—his wife! He found out that Faith was the reason why the ritual was initiated.

He realized that he had lost his Faith so he resolved in pursuing his original plan and be converted to evil like the rest of them. However, as Goodman Brown and Faith approach the altar to be anointed by the evil blood, Goodman Brown ordered Faith to look up to heaven and resist the evil. As soon as the words left his mouth, he found himself alone in the woods wondering if he had just dreamt the ritual. He came back to his neighborhood a changed man. He became distrustful and doubtful of his wife and neighbors even to the day he died.

Comparison of the Major Characters The similarities begin with the idea that both the stories are titled with the name of the major characters and protagonists of the story, Rip Van Winkle and Young Goodman Brown. Both characters experienced supernatural changes in their lives as Rip slept for a period of twenty years and Goodman Brown encountered an evil ritual which brought him alone in the forest. Their supernatural encounter led them to live completely different lives from the one they originally had.

However, the change in Rip’s and Goodman Brown’s life is obviously in contrast with each other. Rip Van Winkle stumbled on to a new enjoyable life without his nagging wife as he is described to experience, “a drop of comfort, at least, in this intelligence” (Irving 46) when he found out that his wife has died. The story also concludes a happy ending for Rip as the text states: “Happily that was at an end; he had got his neck out of the yoke of matrimony, and could go in and out whenever he pleased, without dreading the tyranny of Dame Van Winkle” (Irving 47).

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