Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote numerous stories about people who commit themselves to certain quests. This topic is prominent in several of his works, including “My Kinsman, Major Molineux,” “Roger Malvin’s Burial,” “Young Goodman Brown,” and “The Minister’s Black Veil. ” In each story, the protagonist character embarks on a particular quest, and in these stories, the characters are successful to different degrees, with some more successful than others. The success of the characters” quests also depends on from what viewpoint they are observed.
In “My Kinsman, Major Molineux,” the main character, Robin, goes on a quest to meet with his uncle, Major Molineux. Robin’s primary purpose was to meet with his kinsman, and perhaps be given the chance at obtaining access to power. Robin’s quest contains many stumbling points. He continually searches for his uncle, asking various people if they know of his whereabouts. He is constantly turned down, and sometimes even ridiculed. After many attempts, he is desperate to find answers. So far, his quest to possibly gain power has had no success whatsoever.
He has not even found the man he is looking for, which is only the first step in his quest. Without finding Major Molineux, his quest has no purpose. Eventually, Robin realizes that his uncle is a hated man, and is being publicly ridiculed and embarrassed by everyone in the community. Robin finally realizes what the situation is, and joins the crowd in laughter at his uncle. He immediately wants to leave, and return home, but is encouraged by a friend to stay and continue his quest on his own. Robin’s original quest was extremely unsuccessful, but it may have created a new quest that is even better.
Robin is faced with the challenge to continue on his own, and fend for himself. The gentlemen that Robin met says, ” if you continue to wish it [to return home], I will speed you on your journey. Or, if you prefer to remain with us, perhaps, as you are a shrewd youth, you may rise in the world, without the help of your kinsman, Major Molineux. “(pg. 17). Robin is given the opportunity to move on and start a new quest, one that is even more challenging, but one that is much more rewarding as well.
In “Roger Malvin’s Burial,” the type of quest that the main character goes on is quite different from that of Robin. Reuben Bourne’s quest begins in a very different way and under extremely different circumstances than did Robin’s. Reuben is in the middle of a battle in New England, and a fellow soldier, Roger Malvin, is injured, and cannot go on. Malvin spoke to Bourne, “Reuben, my boy, this rock beneath which we site will serve for an old hunter’s gravestone I will no longer burden you with my useless body if you hasten onward alone, you may be preserved. ” (pg. ).
After much emotion and talk, Reuben decides to carry on without Roger, but promises to give him a decent burial. “Return to this wild rock, and lay my bones in the grave, and say a prayer over them,” Malvin requested (pg. 22). Reuben intended to tell Malvin’s family about what had happened, but was ashamed to break the news. Unlike Robin in “My Kinsman, Major Molineux,” Reuben does not want to go on his quest. He lives with the shame and indignity throughout his whole life, but never actually makes the commitment to return to the site of Malvin’s death.
He cannot overlook the fact that he left the man to die and never returned, nor can he confess that he was wrong in his actions. He finally destroys his guilt by killing his own son, as they stumbled onto the site where Malvin died in the forest. This is a shocking turn of events. Nonetheless, Reuben’s overall quest can still be considered a success to some extent. His quest was to come back and bury, and pay respects to Roger Malvin. Although he does not bury him, he returns to the site accidentally, and makes a huge sacrifice to Malvin by killing his own son.
On the other hand, his quest was unsuccessful because if it weren”t for him stumbling onto the site in the forest, he would have probably never come back to pay respects to Malvin. In addition, killing his own son was more of an action as a result of overwhelming madness, rather than a sacrifice to Malvin. Similarly to the situation in “My Kinsman, Major Molineux,” the character does not entirely succeed in his original quest, but learns a lesson, and is faced with a new quest. In Reuben” case, he fails his original quest to return, but succeeds in his second quest to attempt to make things right.
He does this by making a sacrifice to Malvin as a result of his negligence and regretful behavior. In “Young Goodman Brown,” Goodman Brown’s quest is extremely different from the other quests previously observed. Here, the character goes on a spiritual and psychological quest, exploring the world of evil outside of his ordinary life. He has lost faith in everything he had previously had faith in! He decides to go on a quest, in which he ends up at a meeting where he sees everyone from his community performing satanic acts.
He judges all of these people for being devil worshipers, even though he is on the same journey. As a result of his quest, he begins to distrust everyone in the community, including his wife, Faith. This distrust stays with him for his entire life and forever haunts him. In contrast to the other characters in the other stories, Goodman Brown succeeds in his quest. He desires to learn of the world of evil and his quest takes him there. However, his quest takes him one step further by permanently changing his view of others.
His perception is altered, and now he only sees the evil in people, and cannot trust anyone. “A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate, man did he become from the night of that fearful dream. “(pg. 75). Goodman Brown’s life had been changed completely as a result of his quest. In “The Minister’s Black Veil,” the character achieves the most success of all. In the story, he is adamant about wearing the black veil over his face. Mr. Hooper wears the veil during a mass, in order to hide his face to symbolize that everyone in fact wears an “invisible veil” to hide their sins.
He desires to wear it the rest of his life, and this makes his followers, turn away from him. He was rejected by much of the community, but he was willing to put forth everything he had for his cause. He continued to wear the veil all the way through death, in which he was given the option to remove it, but refused. Before he died, he finally made public his purpose for wearing the veil. ” When man loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin; then deem me a monster, for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die! I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil! pg. 107).
Unlike the other protagonists, Hooper is fully successful in his quest. He pursued his cause, and was willing to give everything for it, even though in meant everybody would reject him. He never gave up, even when on his deathbed. He pushed his cause to the very end, and because of that, he was successful. In many of Hawthorne’s tales, the main character goes on a quest. In some of the quests, such as “My Kinsman, Major Molineux” and “Roger Malvin’s Burial,” the protagonist failed in the original quest, but was given the opportunity to succeed in another.
Goodman Brown almost successfully completed his quest, but the results were devastating to him and to those people that he knew because he could no longer look at anyone else again without seeing the evil in them. A major similarity between these three characters is that each possesses guilt in some form as a result of the quest. Robin felt guilt by betraying his uncle, Reuben felt guilt because he abandoned his good friend, and Goodman Brown felt guilt because he was not able to trust anyone anymore; even the people that he cared about most.
The only real successful quest was that of Mr. Hooper in “The Minister’s Black Veil. ” Hooper did what he though was right, and was willing to do anything for his cause, which turned out to be successful in the end. Each of the stories closely follows these characters on their various voyages, and illustrates the degree of success each character reached in their quests. The topic of personal quests is prominent in many of Hawthorne’s stories. This is seen in these four tales, and it allows us to view many different examples of the levels of success of the characters” journeys.