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If I Believe Why Do I Doubt 

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It is time, at last to understand how the roles of doubt and faith are played into James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown. Through Stephen’s journey and Young Goodman Brown’s realization of faith, it reveals how much having doubt can test your faith. Goodman Brown’s faith is tested by doubt through his wife and what she represents within his life and story. Stephen’s faith is tested through his experience with lust, and the hidden meaning of what art actually is to him. The important relation between the novel and the story are that they both display religion in the main characters’ lives, which also plays a big role. When they go through their individual journeys, they both have faith and doubt in what they are experiencing and what is going to happen in the future, along with their outlook on their religion. The main thing is to really recognize how both characters had to have doubt to truly reach an understanding of their faith, even if they ended up not being strong about it as a whole.

Stephen struggles with doubt that interferes with his faith the entire story. He grows up in a Catholic family, but doesn’t ever feel like it’s important from the very beginning. It isn’t until he makes relation with a prostitute and his lusting begins, that Stephen really starts to worry about his faith. Think about how much lusting would be frowned upon in his religion, you could see why Stephen would doubt his faith. If Stephen is a “good” Catholic how could he possibly be lusting? This is one of Stephen’s biggest conflicts in the story, women and sexuality intervene with the church and its beliefs. He shortly after goes to the retreat to learn about hell and heaven. He doubts himself so much, that he starts to live like a priest and become very strong in the church. He soon realizes that he will never be the perfect human being and that he is a living a life that does not suit him. He gives up living the life of a “perfect” Catholic, and he starts to feel like the church is filled with phony people and that he is more superior. Throughout the story is it shown that Stephen writes a lot and he has always been fascinated with art. His religion makes him doubt his true destiny, being an artist. The paper suggests that Stephen Dedalus is a modernist character: he seeks his own identity and meaning in the complexity of modern experience through art, rather than accepting the identity given to him by traditional society and culture. Stephen realizes that life is not that simple, and that the strict rules and regulations of the Church can’t explain everything. The book implies that no religious doctrine, Catholic or otherwise, can provide universal solutions, and furthermore, limits the possibilities of human accomplishment. Stephen was weak in his faith, grew strong in his faith, and then once again drifted away from it to result in becoming an artist. He knew deep down the whole time what his real destiny was, but he had to go through the journey of an awful lust and the retreat to realize it. He doubted his entire purpose on earth.

In Young Goodman Brown a dark figure who is assumed to be the devil states, “Depending upon one another’s heart, ye had still hoped that the virtue were not all a dream. Now are ye undeceived. Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness.”(Hawthorne 10) This is stating that the love between Goodman Brown and Faith, his wife, are justified in goodness by their beliefs, but their true nature is evil and it will supersede their love as their source of happiness. Faith is symbol in this story for Goodman Brown, because she is his is actual faith. Before Goodman Brown dies a bitter man due to the wickedness and hypocrisy of other people, he leaves his faith first. Faith changing into doubt is very remarkable here because he goes from loving Faith, believing in her, and crying out to her in the forest, to being disgusted with her and Puritanism as a whole. Goodman Brown’s religion stems all the way back to when the Puritans wanted to rid of the Quakers, the witch trials in Salem or the war with the Indians. In his vision he sees his grandfather whipping a quaker and his handing his father a torch to light a village on fire. This makes Goodman Brown very intrigued with the evil side of his historical roots, and he finds his religion rather hypocritical after this. He completely opposes the ideas of the Puritans, he does not understand how the “good’ people of Salem would have communed with the devil by committing unholy acts. He has lived his life in the church and stuck by his background, but by the end of the story he leaves faith behind and is annoyed by the church. The journey he takes to be able to realize how he truly feels about his faith is expressed through the woods, his doubt about the goodness of people around him is the leading reason for this exploration. He leaves “Faith” and enters the forest filled with evil, he goes in with a strong faith and comes out with pure doubt in everything that is surrounding him. During his time in the forest, he sees people like priests and deacons and he deems them as evil. Also, he hears Faith’s voice and sees her ribbons in the air, this tells him she has lost her purity so he even Faith turns into evil. He ends up going to the ritual of evil because he hears Faith’s voice there, this really shows faith actually exists in doubt and you can indeed have both. After he tells Faith to turn away from the devil he ends up alone, after this he frowns upon the church entirely, anyone involving it, including “Faith”. Young Goodman Brown starts out as a person who has such a strong love for faith, to turning against it, questioning the world, and becoming very gloomy. Young Goodman Brown symbolizes the start of a faith in all young, good men, who are all tempted and to some extent, all give in.

As the stories demonstrate, Stephen’s journey and Young Goodman Brown’s realization of faith make both characters conclude about how much having doubt can test your faith. Stephen has to go through his retreat and try to solve his lusting problems, a long with this is where his doubt made him test his faith. Young Goodman Brown has also doubted his faith, he comes to see his religion and the “good” people of Salem for what they really are. Both characters have always had their doubts and they had to go through a certain journey, the retreat and the forest, to realize what they truly believe. They together come to the conclusion that the church itself and the people in it are very hypocritical. Stephen and Young Goodman Brown represent individual rebellion and discovery, because of how much they doubt the world around them and wonder about their faith.    

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