Darkness and Light: Two Paths to Sorrow; “Young Goodman Brown” and “Patterns”

The use of descriptive scenery in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown” and the poem, “Patterns”, by Amy Lowell, is extremely vivid. At first glance it appears as though the descriptive scenery in each is completely contrary to the other, but a closer look reveals subtle similarities.

“Young Goodman Brown” is a dark tale that leaves you with a sense of evil and fear by using words such as dreary, darkened, gloomy and sorrow. The forest through which Young Goodman Brown is traveling is dark, almost formless by his description with changes in the landscape so subtle, it is almost dreamlike. The reader is left to wonder if the tale ends up being just that; a dream. Death is also a theme with the end of the tale marked by the gloom of his dying hour and dark description of the corpse. The forest is old and so are the companions. Young Goodman Brown’s dead father and grandfather are brought into the story, beckoning him to follow their footsteps in the tradition of witchcraft or devil worship. At two different points you get the impression by the reference of “pink ribbons” that his wife, Faith, is in great danger. The “pink ribbons”, signifying hope and goodness are the only mention of bright color in the story. Finally, the entire story takes place at night, in a foreboding forest, hidden under the cover of darkness.

By contrast, “Patterns”, is painted with colorful imagery. Brightness and beauty, light and youth appear to be themes in this poem. Initially, the descriptive imagery used here makes the poem seem frivolous and silly. The author focuses much of her attention on her fashionable dress and “ribboned shoes”. She takes time to describe in detail the garden through which she walks implying that she spends a lot of time there. The apparent innocence of the purpose of her time in the garden being to fantasize a meeting with her lover is a stark contrast to the dark, heavy tale of “Young Goodman Brown”. Another significant difference between these two stories is the poem’s setting is in daylight, under the sun and the cover of laughter.

While the stories appear to be almost defiant of one another, a closer look reveals many commonalities. Each of these tales was written with great depth. Both stories are about young lovers. One couple newly married and one couple to be married within a month. Both authors use color to describe their scenes, though Nathaniel Hawthorne carefully paints a dark scene devoid of color which adds emphasis to references such as Faith’s pink ribbons. Both authors choose nature as a setting and are so descriptive in their story telling, the reader can almost envision, taste and touch the garden and the forest. Finally both main characters are responding to disturbing news.
The stories are truly about death and change, about seeing a future, and losing it. Though one author approaches these topics under the cover of darkness and the other in the light of the garden; they reach the same destination. Sorrow.