Too Close to God, Too Far From Man In the short story Ethan Brand, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ethan Brand lusts for knowledge that leads him on a quest for the unpardonable sin. The unpardonable sin, as one may interpret, is pride and self-gain. It is a loss of the brotherhood with man, and a loss of respect for God. Once this knowledge is gained, he faces alienation from all those around him. In searching for this sinful knowledge, Ethan Brand leads himself into intellectual isolation. He cannot separate his head from his heart, his intellect from his soul.
After tending the kiln, in solitude for so long, his thoughts became his only company, as did the flames that danced in his eyes. Over come with the urge to seek knowledge, he falls to temptation. Adam and Eve’s downfall was in knowledge, as was Ethan Brand’s fall. His sin is best described as, “The sin of intellect that triumphed over the sense of brotherhood with man and reverence for God and sacrificed everything to its own mighty claims” (357). Upon leaving for his twenty-year journey, Brand becomes deranged in the eyes of the townsfolk.
His peers see him as a man who has spent too long a time alone in front of the kiln. Stories arise; such as he “conversed with Satan himself in the lurid blaze of thus very kiln. “(356) His search for self-gain leaves him detached from the world of mortals. Ethan Brand steps into the world of gods, when he learns of the unpardonable sin, and yet he has not left the realm of man. He has eaten the forbidden fruit. He lives in a human world but cannot tell of the unpardonable sin. He is too proud or feels the burden is too great for any other.
He is not welcome into society. He is mocked when he returns. He learns that one may be happy and ignorant or suffering and aware. One cannot possess the knowledge of what goes on and be happy with it. Once he learns how horrible humans are, by searching for this secret sin, Ethan Brand learns of the horrors of human nature. Ethan Brand lost twenty years of his life to the unpardonable sin. After inevitably finding this vice, in humanity, he forfeited part of his humanity. After he left for his journey he, “became a fiend.
He began to be so from the moment that his moral nature had ceased to keep up with the pace of improvement his intellect”(365) This story tells of the desire for knowledge and the pride and consequences of gaining it. He has raised himself to the level of god and felt above man. Before Ethan Brand began his search for the unpardonable Sin, he was sympathetic toward the sufferings of humankind. But during this odyssey, though his intellect grew, his heart withered. ” ‘Leave me,’ he said bitterly, `ye brute beasts, that have made yourselves so, shrivelling up your souls with fiery liquors!
I have done with you. Years and years ago, I groped into your hearts and found nothing there for my purpose. Get ye gone! ” (360) He has lost all his humanity and thus love. His heart withers from the lack of compassion he feels and receives. He feels only with the earth, and has lost contact with mankind. “ ‘O Mother Earth,’ cried he, ‘who art no more my Mother, and into whose bosom this frame shall never be resolved! O mankind, whose brotherhood I have cast off, and trampled thy great heart beneath my feet!
O stars of heaven, that shone on me of old, as if to light me onward and upward! — Farewell all, and forever. Come, deadly element of Fire, — henceforth my familiar friend! Embrace me, as I do thee! ‘ ”(366) Ethan Brand returns to the earth, to death, to the flames, which spurred his hatred for mankind . He finally fully enters the realm of the Gods, and leaves all humanity behind. Ethan Brand has satisfied his lust for knowledge. He has found the unpardonable sin. ” ‘What more have I to seek? What more to achieve? ‘ said Ethan Brand to himself. ‘My task is done, and well done! ”