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Jason Albritton

Professor Lisa Roy-Davis


ENGL 2327-S05
4th December, 2014
The Psychology of the Unknown
Nathaniel Hawthornes work has been critically scrutinized by a multitude of different
perspectives. Among the varying interpretations of his text, the psychological lens that is used for
analysis has produced some of the most intriguing discussions. The main focus of too many
analyses have been narrow and fine-tuned towards one psychological theory. One of
Hawthornes most critically acclaimed works has been Young Goodman Brown for its multiple
perspectives and elusory involvement of analogy and symbolism; but another famous piece,
The Birthmark, has been overlooked by many scholars even though the story contains many of
the same ambiguous messages as Young Goodman Brown. While The Birthmark and
Young Goodman Brown appear to be critical of religious and scientific beliefs of the period, an
incorporative psychological view accounts for an analysis of the unconscious control within the
minds of the main characters. Freudian and Jungian theories together allow a critique of the
unconscious repressions of Aylmer and Brown and how these repressions, coupled with specific
projections, separate the men from humanity and happiness.
In order to account for the psychological meaning of the characters described in The
Birthmark and Young Goodman Brown, Sigmund Freuds and Carl G. Jungs theories of the
unconscious help to understand the significance of the unconscious within these stories. Freud
states in an introductory explanation to psychoanalysis that the unconscious is, the life of the
instincts (82). These instincts are biologically natural for every person and cannot be observed
or comprehended by an individual. No person has the capability to have an idea of what their
unconscious mind has stored within it. To look at the unconscious mind in its simplest form
would be to compare the prefix to the root word itself. If the conscious mind is what a person is

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aware of then the prefix un- would denote the meaning of an unconscious mind to be what a
person is not aware of. Carl G. Jung elaborated on the unconscious theory that Freud created to
divide it into two separate perspectives, the collective unconscious and the personal unconscious.
Alexis Colombos clarifies Jungs elaboration and defines personal unconsciousness as, wishes,
feelings, affects, needs, and ideas that we do not realize. As we do not realize them, they remain
just wishes, feelings, thought, affects, and ideas that cannot be materialized (3). The personal
conscious is the own individuals experiences that constitute that one persons unconscious
desires and drives. These desires and drives are natural for every person and equally different for
each person. The personal unconscious will be the specific version of consciousness that will be
referred to throughout this analysis.
Aminadabs character in The Birthmark has been overlooked by many scholars who
have analyzed the text, which is surprising because of his importance to the story and the main
character Aylmer when studying the text through a psychological lens. Perhaps Aminadab has
been neglected because of the limited attention that he receives from the narrator, but the limited
recognition he has received, which mainly focuses on his names significance, has clear critical
flaws within the interpretations. W.R. Thompson notes that Aminadab has a biblical influence as
it is a variant of Amminadab which receives mention ten times in the Bible (413). Conor
Walsh states that, The name is a variation of the Hebrew name Aminadav, which means my
nation is noble (258). The glaring concern about these two arguments is that they are using
descriptions that only work when the name Aminadab is altered with an addition or removal of
certain letters. Beyond the obvious variations that they are using, neither analysis refers directly
to the text within The Birthmark to confirm their respective claim. Liz Rosenberg notices that
Aminadab is a reverse anagram for bad anima (146). Anima, according to Jung theory, is the
feminine soul in men which requires no alteration of the letters within the name Aminadab,

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just a simple reversal when reading it (Colombos 4). This definition of the names meaning can
also be supplied with evidence from the text to defend its meaning within a psychological
perspective. Although Rosenberg attempts to relate the bad anima and its context within the
story, she falls well short of many of the clues that the narrator implies to the reader to signify
Aminadabs psychological significance to the story.
Although the narrator does not devote much attention towards Aminadabs character, the
descriptions that he does provide is clear evidence of his creation by Aylmers unconscious mind.
Aminadab, as described by the narrator, is, a man of low stature, but bulky frame, with shaggy
hair hanging about his visage, and possesses, mechanical readinessvast strength, his shaggy
hair, his smoky aspect, and the indescribable earthiness that incrusted him, he seemed to
represent mans physical nature (Hawthorne 649). This passage is the longest duration that the
narrator speaks of Aminadab and to many readers it would go unnoticed, but the significance of
this passage is key, when it is coupled with other descriptions within the story, to understanding
the psychological role that Aminadab exhibits. Examine the following sentence that describes
Aylmer as a, slender figure, and pale, intellectual face, were no less apt a type of the spiritual
element (Hawthorne 649). A simple comparison of the two characters presents Aminadabs
bulky frame versus Aylmers slender figure, Aminadabs mechanical readiness versus Aylmers
intellect, and Aminadabs physical nature versus Aylmers spiritual element. This idea of an alterego, or binary opposition, has not gotten past some critiques1 but those same critiques have failed
to recognize other inferences made by the narrator.
Other descriptions within the text give an even more descriptive depiction of Aminadabs
opposition to Aylmers character within The Birthmark. Aminadab has the ability to execute
all the practical details of his masters experiments even though he is incapable of
comprehending a single principle (Hawthorne 649). Aylmer has the ability to understand all the

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alchemic principles that his experiments consist of but is incapable of applying this knowledge as
his most splendid successes were almost invariably failures (Hawthorne 652). Aminadabs
opposition to Aylmers character is further described when he states, If she were my wife, Id
never part with that birth-mark (Hawthorne 649). In the closing pages of the story Aminadab is
also heard chuckling with laughter which opposes the somber mood that Aylmer possesses in the
closing paragraphs. Their capabilities and thought processes oppose one another just as much as
their physical characteristics do, which has received little attention from any experts.
Many literary scholars would argue that this perception of the opposing characters is not
enough evidence to claim that Aminadab is a creation of Aylmers unconscious, but the text and
narrators statements further legitimatize this argument. At no point throughout the text does
Georgiana, wife of Aylmer, notice or see Aminadab, even though all three characters reside
within the same residence. Coincidently Georgiana faints just before Aylmer calls his assistant
for the first time and Aminadab is introduced into the story. When Aylmer is speaking directly to
Aminadab, the narrator states that Aylmer is talking, more to himself than his assistant
(Hawthorne 653). To refer back to the hoarse chuckle that Aminadab emits when Georgiana is
passing away, Aylmer responds by stating, Laugh, thing of the senses! (Hawthorne 655). Those
senses are Aylmers own and Aylmer is speaking more to himself because Aminadab is Aylmer.
Aminadabs existence is not in reality but in Aylmers senses of the unconscious mind. Even
when Georgiana enters into the laboratory she does not see Aminadabs presence but what
chiefly, almost solely, drew her attention, was the aspect of Aylmer himself (Hawthorne 653).
Of the other things she did notice were the furnace, glass vessels, distilling apparatus, and an
electrical machine, but there is no Aminadab life form seen throughout her scan of the laboratory.
I am unable to cite about these very facts with reference to scholarly review because there is no
analysis available that addresses these concepts. The only citations, besides the text itself, reflect

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upon the physical characteristics between Aylmer and Aminadab but do not discuss how the
other aspects of the two characters oppose one another. Aylmer and Aminadab are clearly
contradictory in their physical forms, but their actions, thought processes, and competency are
equally conflicting.
Just as the narrator plays a crucial role in informing the reader of Aylmers misconstrued
version of The Birthmark, so too does the narrator of Young Goodman Brown. Brown
wonders to himself in the story, What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!
(Hawthorne 620). Richard Predmore acknowledges Browns unconscious creation of the devil
when he says, and in the very next instant the devil magically appears, as if Brown has conjured
him out of his own mind (251). It is not as if Brown has conjured the devilish figure up in his
own mind, it is that Brown has done just that and unconsciously created what he was wondering
to himself. But even before this psychological battle begins between Browns conscious and
unconscious the narrator gives a few context clues as to what type of story, or should it be said
fairy tale, will be taking place. Within the opening paragraphs of the narrators words he
mentions sleep, bed, and dream a total of once, twice, and three times, respectively. Not a very
obvious inference done by the narrator but it is vital when finishing the text in its entirety and
taking note of these key words. These words do not appear once more until the closing
paragraphs where asleep and awakening are mentioned one time each and dream is repeated four
more times by the narrator. What the narrator is attempting to hint to the reader at the beginning
of the story is that this is an unconscious text, and he reiterates that same message to the
audience as the story concludes. Dream, sleep, bed, and awake all relate to sleeping, or a state of
rest, which is a task that occurs within the unconscious mind of which a person is unaware.
There is an even more important role that the narrator plays within Young Goodman
Brown since the narrator is the one who brings truth to the storys depictions. The narrator

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never once refers to them [Goody Cloyse, the minister, or deacon Gookin] by their names,
according to Norman Hostetler, They are always described as figures or forms (222).
Hostetler further elaborates the unreliability of Browns claims within the text and notices that
these characters existence has been established only in relation to Browns perceptions, and not
the narrators (222). Brown questions the devils existence around him and he appears, the
narrator mentions a female figure on the path and Brown immediately recognizes Goody
Cloyse, the narrator mentions two grave old voices and Brown makes the assumption that the
voices belong to the minister and deacon Gookin, even though their appearance is never seen
when they, according to the narrator, come through the faint gleam from the strip of bright
skywhich they must have passed (Hawthorne 624). The narrator is informing the reader that
if these characters were really within the forest, then they would have been seen by Brown when
they passed through this strip of light where their figures would have become visible. The
narrator next mentions the voice of a young woman who Brown perceives to be Faith and
proceeds to rush through the wilderness after her, screaming her name and laughing feverishly.
When Brown reaches the ceremonious gathering and hears hymns sung he is listening not to
human voices, but of all the sounds of the benighted wilderness and his cries were lost to his
own ear (Hawthorne 625). The people that Brown has envisioned and the voices he has heard
are non-existent according to the narrator when Brown reaches the gathering. He is not hearing
any human voices but rather hearing the sounds of the forest and his cries are lost to his own ear
because there are no other ears around him to receive his cries. If the reader pays close attention
to the ways the narrator negates the visions that Brown has, the unconscious projections that
Browns mind creates become evident. The narrator clearly states that the devilish travelers
statements and arguments, seemed rather to spring up in the bosom of his auditor [Brown], than

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to be suggested by himself [the devil] (Hawthorne 623). The devilish forms ideas stem directly
from Browns unconscious mind. He knows the arguments that will persuade Brown to continue
on the journey and even creates Brown a walking stick from a maple branch before Brown
realizes, within his consciousness, that he will need it. The devilish acquaintance is the devil
within Brown that he is psychologically unaware of.
While the narrators are not characters within the storylines themselves, they do play key
roles in creating each storys context. If the reader uses the two main characters depiction of
what happened in each story then the events would be skewed from the truth. It is the subtle
inferences that the narrator supplies within each story that allows the reader to question each
main characters conscious awareness. It is each narrator that informs the reader of the role that
Browns and Aylmers unconscious play within the texts. The doubt that is placed within the
readers mind to the legitimacy of each characters story is due mostly to the narrators literal
expressions of doubt and alternative possibilities (Hostetler 222). It is not easy to decipher
between the possibilities that the narrators present and the stories that Aylmer and Brown are
attempting to depict within their own recollection, but that is the true depth of these two stories.
While the stories appear to be on the surface, as religious contradictions, this point of view
results in an erroneous conclusion. There is a depth of understanding contained within each text
that goes far beyond a simple explanation of religious constituents practicing unfaithfully.
The main characters of these two stories share other characteristics, besides their
unconscious struggles, that link their ideology as well. Both characters choose to leave their
respective wife for the company of another man within each story. Daniel Thomires realizes
that this idea, throughout the context of several stories,2 is not sensual or signifying that any of
the characters feel better with male company but, The point is that in this homoeroticism, you
share in what the other offers you: another world, or more precisely, a richer and more complex

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vision of your world (18). The accompaniment of a similar counterpart gives another voice of
reason and perspective that relates to that persons own thought process and produces a form of
self-motivation. This narcissism, or interest in ones self, is not always a negative aspect and can
be a positive influence to some people if managed and balanced correctly. We are all
narcissistic, which for instance explains why we will try to save ourselves if we fall into a river,
even if we cannot swim (Thomires 19). As long as the narcissistic thoughts are balanced then it
can be beneficial, as Freud states, there is absolutely nothing wrong with narcissism
(Thomires 19). It is the need to balance the direction of the libido produced towards inner
objects and outer objects that determines whether the narcissism within one person is negative or
positive. Both characters face this struggle to balance their narcissistic actions throughout each
story. Brown leaves Faith to congregate with the devil despite his wifes pleading, and Aylmer
leaves Georgiana multiple times to work with Aminadab in the laboratory. Aylmer even voices
his want for self-admiration when he says, Ah! Wait for this one success, then worship me if
you will. I shall deem myself hardly unworthy of it (Hawthorne 653). Brown does not explicitly
state his narcissistic thoughts as blatantly as Aylmer but the reader can correlate both characters
actions in leaving their wives into the same category. It is this need for self-gratification and
perfection that causes the two men to leave their significant others in search for something better.
Something, or someone, who will defend their cause and need for self-perfection. But this desire
ultimately leads to unhappiness for them and leads them both into a state of melancholy at each
storys end.
The Birthmark makes the readers search for Aylmers desires easier to discover than
compared to Browns in Young Goodman Brown. Paying particular attention, in The
Birthmark, to key words that the narrator repetitively uses, mortal and perfect, it is clear what
the focus of Aylmers attention is. Perfect and mortal are used 23 and 10 times, respectively,

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throughout a 12 page story which equates to an average of 2.75 references to the two key terms
per page. It is Aylmers desire for perfecting morality that reveals itself for what it is -- an
absolute intolerance for (what he perceives as) his wifes imperfection (Youra 44). This
repetitious fashion explicitly informs the reader of Aylmers perfectionist ways and reveals the
deeply impressive moral that the narrator mentions in the storys opening paragraphs
(Hawthorne 645). Aylmers desire for perfection is easily noticeable by any reader, but Browns
similar desire is more subtle. To discover Browns implicit want for perfection, attention has to
be focused towards his projections of himself onto the devil and his repression of his own moral
imperfections. The devil, according to the narrator, is, apparently in the same rank of life as
goodman Brown, and bearing a considerable resemblance to him (Hawthorne 621). He even
goes as far to say that, they might have been taken for father and son (Hawthorne 621). The
devil within the story is more than just a projection by Brown but also, considering Jungian
theory, a shadow of Browns unwanted parts within himself that would damage his ego if he
were to recognize them. The shadow, or the dark aspects of our personality that we keep
unconscious and disassociate and detached from our self-identity concept as a defense
mechanism that protects the consciousness and the ego, are the aspects that the devil contains
within himself due to Browns projection of himself onto another being (Colombos 3). After all,
as stated by D.J. Moores, the shadow is most commonly encountered, according to Jungian
theory, in projection (5). The devil is Browns unconscious creation, and Brown has projected
his own sins and imperfections onto the devil while, at the same time, repressing the fact that he
contains any sinful ways within his own self. Combining the Jungian and Freudian theories
sufficiently answers the question that has been posed as to why Brown would leave Faiths side
and meet with the devil in the forest,3 and it denounces the idea that Brown is battling an Oedipal

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complex presented by Freudian scholars. Brown is consciously unaware of the guilt he has about
his own imperfections and is attempting to become one with his shadow and his complete self,
which he continually represses. To do so he must venture on his journey into the wilderness to
reveal who he truly is, which he ultimately fails to recognize, and there are several instances
throughout the story that back this claim and verify that Brown is consciously unaware of his
own wrongdoing.
The devil informs Brown that he assisted his grandfather in the gruesome Salem witch
trials and the following statement from Brown is echoed, We are a people of prayer, and good
works, to boot, and abide no such wickedness (Hawthorne 621). Brown is in denial about his
familys history because his lineage has participated in such wickedness, and the narrator
provides further evidence that shows Browns unconscious repression of his own sins. While
Brown is traveling through the forest, where no church had ever been gathered, according to
the narrator, nor solitary Christian prayed, Brown proceeds within the next paragraph to pray,
With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil! (Hawthorne 624).
It is not coincidence that the narrators statement appears just before Browns prayer. The
narrator is implicitly informing the reader that Brown is not a firm Christian believer and even
implying that Brown is unaware of this very truth, signifying Browns denial and unconscious
repression. First, Brown locates his own evil in others. Second, and of greater significance to
my argument, Brown believes himself to be without guilt (Tritt 116). At the end of the story,
when Brown questions what God deacon Gookin prays to, when he snatches the child from
Goody Cloyses catechisms, and when he stares sternly at Faith when she elates with joy upon
Browns arrival he is unknowingly demonizing the figures that he saw at the witch meeting that
he attended. Brown either believes himself to consist of no sin or is consciously unaware that sin
exists within himself, just as much as sin comprises those within his community. Nobody made

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Brown venture into the forest to partake on his journey with the devil. Actually, Faith pleaded
him not to go, but he blames his adventure on her, and others, when he returns. He does not
acknowledge the fact that he is the cause of his own sins, creating his own potential for evil, and
no one else.
Nathaniel Hawthornes understanding of the unconscious and psycho-analytics within a
time period where psychology had yet to be discovered and founded is simply astonishing. Nina
Baym mentions in the introduction to The Scarlett Letter that Hawthorne had recognized
psychology before the field of psychology had developed and before fictional techniques had
been developed to reflect this new knowledge (10). As a matter of fact, Young Goodman
Brown and The Birthmark were published, respectively, 44 and 36 years before Wilhelm
Wundt founded psychology in 1879. Hawthornes knowledge of the unknown is truly
remarkable, but the lack of critical analysis focused towards this psychological knowledge that
he possessed is puzzling. It is difficult to find scholarly works, based on psychoanalytic theory,
which focuses on Hawthornes work. The question has to be posed if the study is simply too
complicated or if the subject matter has been overlooked. Many of the critiques that address the
same issues that have been addressed in this analysis are dated in the 1800s and 1900s but little
research has been written since the turn of the century. The subjects complicity holds merit but
when the research begins to unravel the significance of these two pieces of text, it is truly
marveling the absolute understanding that their author held. The involvement of ideas from
Freud and Jung, that had yet to be produced, were already mastered by Hawthorne within these
pieces and are presented with absolute accuracy. The psychological concept of the unconscious is
clearly understood and implicitly stated, and the theories of repression, projection, and shadow
by the two main characters are presented in a fashion that would later be regurgitated by many
psychology experts. Hawthorne has penned many other short stories and novels, all of which can

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be equally intriguing when viewed through a psychological lens. The goal of this project was not
to question the previous scholars who have performed similar analyses, but rather to hopefully
elicit further literary enthusiasts to implore additional questions and delve deeper into the
meaning of these texts, as well as other Hawthorne pieces, to discover new psychological
meanings that were previously unknown to the world.
Notes
1. The mirror images of Aylmers and Aminadabs physical composition were presented in
both Liz Rosenbergs The Best That Earth Could Offer: The Birthmark, A Newlyweds
Story and Conor Walshs Aminadab in Nathaniel Hawthornes The Birthmark.
2. Thomires addresses the narcissistic actions of Herman Melvilles Pierre and William
Faulkners Quentin Compson, along with Nathaniel Hawthornes Goodman Brown.
3. James C. Keill poses the question, What is it the devil can offer him [Brown] that his
Faith cannot? in Hawthornes Young Goodman Brown: Early Nineteenth-Century and
Puritan Constructions of Gender.

Works Cited

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Baym, Nina. Introduction. The Scarlet Letter. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Penguin,
1986. 1-24. Print.
Colombos, Alexis. Analytical Psychology: The Theory of Carl G. Jung. Academia: n. pag.
Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
Freud, Sigmund. New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. New York: W. W. Norton &
Company Inc., 1933. Print.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. The Norton Anthology of American
Literature. 8th ed. Vol. 1. Eds. Baym, Nina, and Levine, Robert S. New York: W. W.
Norton & Company, 2013. 619-628. Print.
--- The Birth-Mark. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. Vol. 1. Eds. Baym,
Nina, and Levine, Robert S. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013. 645-656. Print.
Hostetler, Norman H. Narrative Structure And Theme In Young Goodman Brown. Journal of
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Moores, D.J. Young Goodman Browns Evil Purpose: Hawthorne and the Jungian Shadow.
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Rosenberg, Liz. "'The best that earth could offer': 'The Birth-mark,' a newlywed's story." Studies
in Short Fiction 30.2 (1993): 145+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.
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Tritt, Michael. "'Young Goodman Brown' And The Psychology Of Projection." Studies In Short
Fiction 23.1 (1986): 113-117. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.

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Walsh, Conor. "Aminadab In Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Birth Mark'." Explicator 67.4 (2009):
258-260. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
Youra, Steven. "'The Fatal Hand': A Sign Of Confusion In Hawthorne's 'The Birth-Mark'."
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