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Have you ever had a dream that felt real? Or make some choices that you regretted and had to go ask for forgiveness? Maybe you can identify with one or multiple characters from The Prodigal Son or Young Goodman Brown. Have you ever been on a journey that changed your way of thinking? The main characters in both The Prodigal Son and Young Goodman Brown went on journeys that changed their whole life. We are going to look at how settings and points of view affect what we get from their stories.

The setting is a vital element of a story, it communicates the time and place where a story begins. Young Goodman Brown and The Prodigal Son are set in very different periods.

The Prodigal Son takes place in the time of Jesus and is found in the book of Luke chapter 15 verses 11-32. The tax collectors and the sinners were all coming together to hear Jesus. The Pharisees and the scribes were getting distraught because Jesus was socializing with the sinners, who did not get along. Jesus is trying to reach both groups by telling this parable.

Nathanial Hawthorn was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and has a deep connection to the area and the period.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was the great-great-grandson of the Salem Witch Trials judge John Hathorne. Hawthorne was haunted by his connection to his ancestor and it is speculated that he may have eventually added the “W” to his last name to distance himself from his great-great-grandfather. Hawthorne published two stories under the name “Hathorne” in 1830 but started spelling his name with a W after this date (Brooks, 2019)

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Young Goodman Brown is set in Salem Village at the end of the 17th century about 100 years after the Salem Witch Trials.

The point of view is also an essential literary tool for the reason that it can let us into the minds of the characters and we can see the story through one or many characters’ eyes. To understand the minds of the characters you need to get into their minds and the point of view helps us do that. Young Goodman Brown is mostly written from a limited omniscient point of view from Brown’s perspective. Readers find it hard to decipher whether or not the story was a dream so vivid that it changed his life or if the story was fact. Brown was also unable to interpret if he was dreaming or if the events of the night had taken place. He spent the rest of his days believing that the people that surrounded him were untrustworthy.

Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch meeting? Be it so, if you will. But, alas! it was a dream of evil omen for young Goodman Brown. A stern, sad, darkly meditative, distrustful, if not desperate man did he become from the night of that fearful dream. On the Sabbath-day when the congregation was singing a holy psalm, he could not listen because an anthem of sin rushed loudly upon his ear and drowned all the blessed strain. When the minister spoke from the pulpit with power and fervid eloquence and with his hand on the open Bible, of the sacred truths of our religion, and of saint-like lives and triumphant deaths, and 70 of future bliss or misery unutterable, then did Goodman Brown turn pale, dreading lest the roof should thunder down upon the gray blasphemer and his hearers (Johnson, Arp, & Perrine, 2018 pages 426-427).

The Prodigal Son is written from various points of view. The section of the story that focuses on the younger son is written in a limited third-person omniscient point of view. We can speculate how the character is feeling in the story. The younger son asked his father for his inheritance and he left his father’s house. Much like people today he wanted to live on his own make his own choices and not have anyone to answer to. The younger son left his father as Christians leave the will of God. They live not for Christ but for their pleasure. The younger son realized his mistake but only after he had squandered all his inheritance. The younger son went back to his father humbly and asked to work with the servants and be treated like a servant. The Father showed compassion and love as the Lord does with us. He opens his arms and rejoices at our homecoming. He overlooked all the sins and mistakes of the younger son just as the Lord does when we come to him and admit our failures.

The part of the story that focuses on the older son uses a dramatic point of view. The older son became angry when the father showed compassion to the younger son. “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:28 NIV).

The characters in both stories had life-changing experiences and the outcomes were vastly different. Hawthorne’s character never trusted anyone again after his expedition and because the story is told through his point of view, we end up just as confused as he is at the end of the story. The younger son in the parable of the Prodigal Son is left feeling the love of his father after he returns from his journey and the father embraces him and throws a celebration for his homecoming.

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