Religion & Historical Background of Young Goodman Brown

There are times when religion and innocence are questioned. Some people may argue that heritage can be a deciding factor in how religion can play a major role in how we view one another. The story Young Goodman Brown was the outcome of Hawthorne’s experience through his young adulthood, which was heavily impacted by the historical background of his family.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts, to a family of Puritan colonists. Hawthorne’s paternal distant grandfather, John Hathorne, whom was a judge in the Salem Witch Trials, troubled Nathaniel so much, that he added the W to his last name to separate himself from the family.

1 Some readers could argue after reading this story, knowing the history of the Salem Witch Trials, and knowing things about Nathaniel Hawthorne, he showed the hypocrisy of the Puritan faith through the events that happened throughout the story.

One example of how Hawthorne’s heritage, specifically the background of the “judge,” played a role in the story through events that occurred, was at the beginning of the story when Brown, the main character, met with the traveler, also known as the “devil,” and discovered that the devil had possibly been affiliated with his family.

2 Brown stated in the story that he was “surprised that his family had never spoken of this, because if rumor had made its way to the town that the family was affiliated with the devil, they would have cast them from New England,” just as the individuals in the Salem Witch Trials were hanged, because they were believed to be affiliated with the devil, and using the Devil’s Magic.

Hawthorne used his experience with the Puritan background in the story, with the description of the woods as being a dark place, portraying that the “woods” is where the devil resided, and that the “woods” is where evil deeds took place.3 Hawthorne also used the sounds of the creaking of trees, the howling of wild beasts, and the yell of Indians that Brown heard, as another way to show that evil resided in the woods.

The Puritans’ belief was that the devil was responsible for every evil deed that took place, whether it was through witchcraft, or through rituals thought to be satanic.5 An example of this was the ritual that the devil performed towards the end of the story to try and convert Brown and his wife from the Puritan belief.6 Another example of how Hawthorne’s heritage and the Puritan belief were portrayed in the story, was shown when Brown was describing his opinion of Goody Cloyse, and of his father.

He stated in the story that he was surprised that Goody was in the woods, especially at night. Brown made the statement, “A marvel, truly that Goody Cloyse should be so far in the wilderness at nightfall.” Brown had also made a comment earlier in the story about his father being honest and a good Christian by stating, “My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs.”

Brown thought highly of both of his father and fellow acquaintance, Goody, and believed they were both strong in their faith. Whether or not all the events that took place throughout the story were a dream or reality for Brown, Hawthorne used the devil’s ritual to reveal that even the good Puritan townspeople that Brown thought were superior than he, are apt to commit sin. Hawthorne also showed that religion can play a role in how we view one another.

Works Cited

(1) Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. New England: New England Magazine, 1835. Pgs. 1131-1141 in Making Literature Matter (2) Blumberg, Jess. “A Brief History of The Salem Witch Trials.”, 2007. (3) White, Ellen Brooks. “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Salem.” Miscellany: Life and Literature:, 2012-2013.

Sin in the Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne

After analyzing several of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories, it becomes apparent to the reader that he often wrote using the recurring theme of sin. Though sin is present in all of his works, there is much variation on the ways in which his characters come to understand the inherent evil that lurks inside every human being. Whether expressed in the form of selfishness, passion, or obsession, the sin is somehow masked and concealed from others, and prevents humans from achieving pure goodness (O’Toole).

Among Hawthorne’s many literary works, “The Birthmark,” “The Minister’s Black Veil,” and “Young Goodman Brown” provide excellent examples in depicting the variances among the common theme of evil and sin.

In “Young Goodman Brown,” Hawthorne creates a conflict between Brown and his own acceptance of sin in mankind. In the story, Goodman Brown ventures into the forest, where he meets a man who is described as, “about fifty years old…and bearing a considerable resemblance to him [Brown], though perhaps more in expression than features.

” (738) Yet perhaps the most significant part of this description is that of the staff this man carried, which, “bore the likeness of a great black snake,” (739) leading the reader to assume the man is evil, if not the devil himself.

The devil leads Goodman Brown to meeting place, deep within the woods, where many honorable society members are worshipping evil. Even the minister, who is the closest human to God, is there participating. However, possibly the most noteworthy character in attendance is Brown’s wife, Faith, who he previously called, “a blessed angel on earth.” (Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown,” 738) While Goodman Brown went into the forest with the belief that all of his neighbors were pure and sin-free, he exited with an opposing opinion of them and can no longer look at them the same way he used to. With the statement, “There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given,” (742) Hawthorne reiterates his theme that evil is present in the world, in both nature and the human spirit, and that even the most holy of people have some hidden evil lurking inside of them.

Similarly, in Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil,” the author retains the theme of concealed sin. However, the conflict in the story is slightly different, being between the people and Hooper’s wearing of the veil, which symbolizes the acceptance of sin. In the story, Hooper, the town minister, suddenly decides to begin wearing a black veil, no matter what the occasion. The members of his congregation feel uncomfortable by this symbol though. One concludes, by the conclusion of the story, that Hawthorne intended for Hooper’s veil to symbolize sin, and the fact that the minister was wearing it demonstrated that he knew he has done wrong and accepted the reality that it could not be undone.

Father Hooper’s wearing of the black veil seems to impact his parishioners in that the members of the congregation felt as if they were also wearing veils simply because they felt the presence of Hooper’s. This is perhaps what the minister intended as he says, “I look around me, and lo! on every visage a Black Veil!” (Hawthorne, “The Minister’s Black Veil,” 759) seemingly convicting all people of having sins that they are hiding and need to recognize. Nathaniel Hawthorne not only describes the sin in every human being in this story, but also preaches that one should not look down upon another for their sins when they too have sinned.

Though the previously mentioned stories have been very similar in their depiction of sin, Mr. Hawthorne makes his theme more difficult to identify in his story “The Birthmark.” While the underlying theme of masked sin is still evident, it is conveyed through a story dealing with the author’s ideas about nature. The protagonist of the story, Aylmer, believes his wife, Georgiana, is perfect with the exception of the birthmark on her cheek. Due to his strong passion for science, Aylmer develops a method to remove this birthmark, demonstrating his selfishness, a trait that Hawthorne believes leads men to sin.

One night, Aylmer has a dream that when he removed the birthmark, it went into Georgiana’s heart. This dream leads readers to believe that the birthmark is an exterior representation of internal sin that only Georgiana knows of. In the story, the author says, “It was the fatal flaw of humanity which Nature, in one shape or another, stamps ineffaceably on all her productions, either to imply that they are temporary and finite, or that their perfection must be wrought by toil and pain.” (Hawthorne, “The Birthmark,” 768) This statement allows the reader to make the assumption that Nathaniel Hawthorne believed that the possession of flaws and sin is what characterizes humans, and that it is impossible to be perfect while living on earth.

Through a description of the three mentioned stories, “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Minister’s Black Veil,” and “The Birthmark,” readers come to understand the many ways in which Nathaniel Hawthorne conveyed his beliefs regarding sin. The conclusion is reached that all humans must have some form of sin, whether it be it the form of selfishness, passion, or any other manner, and that most people try to conceal these sins in order to appear perfect. Hawthorne also believes that sin can often times be so small that it goes unnoticed, yet it impacts the entirety of the sinner’s life. Many other similarities, besides the persistent theme of evil and sin, can be observed in Hawthorne’s works, yet this theme seems to be perhaps the most common and most apparent topic throughout his writings.


Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birthmark.” The American Tradition in Literature. Ed. George and Barbara Perkins. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1994. 767-777.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Minister’s Black Veil.” The American Tradition in Literature. Ed. George and Barbara Perkins. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1994. 751-759.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” The American Tradition in Literature. Ed. George and Barbara Perkins. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1994. 737-746.

O’Toole, Heather. “The Blackness of Men’s Souls: Why Nathaniel Hawthorne
could not Embrace Transcendentalism.” Bridgewater College. 4 Feb. 2003.

Hawthorne’s use of the narrator in Young Goodman Brown

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” the story is told through the eyes of a limited omniscient third-person narrator. This style is very accommodating to the story because it allows the author perfect opportunities to express his points. The narrator can both describe what Goodman Brown is doing, and also evaluate and comment on the characters actions. This is a tool of the author to use the narrator to express his own personal beliefs on mankind. The narrator possesses the capability of reading the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist, the young Puritan husband, Goodman Brown, only among all the characters.

As Brown turns the corner at the meeting house, he thinks:

” ‘Poor little Faith!’ thought he, for his heart smote him. ‘What a wretch am I, to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought, as she spoke, there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight.

But, no, no! ‘twould kill her to think it. Well; she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.’ “

This ability of the narrator is why the story has a limited point of view, since it does not apply to other characters in the story.

The narrator is an intrusive one who evaluates and comments on the actions and motives of the characters. When Goodman resolves to make this the last time that he ever does such a thing, the narrator evaluates his resolution:

” ‘Well; she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.’

With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose.”

This point of view gives Hawthorne much more flexibility than a regular third-person narration. A regular third-person narration would leave no chance to add the commentary to the action. Additionally, it leaves him with the ability to drop in his own thoughts on mankind.

“The road grew wilder and drearier, and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward, with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil.”

Similar narrator comment on the mankind is found during Goodman’s same violent reaction to Faith’s apparent conversion:

“On he flew, among the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting forth such laughter, as set all the echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous, than when he rages in the breast of man.”

Hawthorne continues to use the narrator to talk down on mankind. He cites numerous references of mankind associating with evil and committing sin. Another such comment appears after Goodman has entered the site of the coven:

“Another verse of the hymn arose, a slow and mournful strain, such as the pious love, but joined to words which expressed all that our nature can conceive of sin, and darkly hinted at far more. Unfathomable to mere mortals is the lore of fiends.”

Perhaps Hawthorne’s strongest comment comes while the devil speaks from the altar-rock:

“‘Lo! there ye stand, my children,’ said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad, with its despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race.”

Everything that is happening is perceived and interpreted for the reader by the protagonist, until the end of the tale approaches and the narrator becomes more intrusive:

“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, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man, did he become. . . . And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave, a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an aged woman, and children and grandchildren, a goodly procession, besides neighbors, not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom.”

“Young Goodman Brown” is a prime example of how important point of view is. A good author, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, can use point of view to manipulate the reader into seeing exactly what he wants to be seen. He narrated a story, commented on the story, and commented on the human race at the same time. “Young Goodman Brown” really exemplifies the prominence of point of view in fiction.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

For the American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne the most explored theme of all his writings is the imperfect spirituality of man and the pervasiveness of sin throughout creation. Both of the stories under analysis here, Young Goodman Brown and The Minister’s Black Veil, feature a young reverend as the central character of the work and a Puritanical community in New England as the setting. Both of the tales are allegories centered on the ambiguity of human spirituality and on the ubiquity of sin in creation.

Young Goodman Brown is an allegory about the deep mystery of sin, for which the author makes use of all available suggestive elements, from the setting- a deep and gloomy forest in New England, to the characters and their symbolic names- Goodman, an obvious hint at “good man”, and Faith, an equally transparent hint at religious faith, to other symbolic elements such as the staff resembling a wrinkled serpent, obviously the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

Hawthorne approaches the idea of sin in his allegorical usual way, with conspicuous Biblical allusions, but also with deep psychological insight into the character’s soul and mind.

He delves profoundly into human consciousness and the life of the mortal soul, highlighting the permanent conflicts between virtue and sin. In Young Goodman Brown we follow the main character on his intricate course through the dark and gloomy forest, reminding us of the Garden of Eden, and we are confronted with the grim temptations of sin in a vague, confusing setting, where the line dividing-line between dream and reality becomes very thin. It is Hawthorne’s own choice to leave the question as to whether the night’s confused events and the meeting of the community of witches was a dream or reality.

Through this artifice, an essential problem is set forth- the result is that the reader has to wonder whether the sin and the fall into temptation belong to Goodman alone or whether the entire community is pervaded by sinfulness and immorality. The forest is thus a symbol for the human consciousness and for the spiritual life of man, and what Hawthorne undertakes to find out is whether everybody is actually lost on the paths of the spiritual, and which of the two –virtue or sin – is the true state of the spiritual life.

Another important aspect is that in the midst of the gloominess of the forest meet for initiation into the lore of sinfulness, both the villagers who are commonly considered as virtuous and pious in everyday life, and are often set an example, and those members of the community who are normally viewed as sinners or criminals. Thus, the two main sides of spiritual life- virtue and sin are both mere appearances, whereas in the inner life of man they live together undisturbed. The Minister’s Black Veil is similar to Young Goodman Brown in many respects.

Again, the centre of the story is the tormented consciousness of a young priest, who chooses to wear a symbolic black veil over his eyes, that prevents him from enjoying any kind of mortal happiness. In the end, the veil is seen as a symbol for the darkness and sinfulness that is hidden into the depths of human consciousness and that separates man from his fellows. As Goodman Brown typifies the average man, torn between virtue and sin, the minister in this story symbolizes the imperfect spirituality of man.

The black veil that hides the face of the young priest is but the symbol of the outward representation of sin. According to Hawthorne, sin is inherent in the soul and is only veiled by the appearance of virtue. Sinfulness lies therefore deep within and separates all men from one another as the black veil separates the minister both from light and from communion with his fellows. Hawthorne therefore tackles mortal imperfection and the pervasive nature of sin in creation. Both stories emphasize the nature of human spirituality, at the very core of which sin and unlawfulness thrive.

Corruptibility in “Young Goodman Brown”

In ‘Young Goodman Brown,’ Hawthorne reveals what he sees as the corruptibility that results from Puritan society’s emphasis on public morality, which often weakens private religious faith. Although Goodman Brown has decided to come into the forest and meet with the devil, he still hides when he sees Goody Cloyse and hears the minister and Deacon Gookin. He seems more concerned with how his faith appears to other people than with the fact that he has decided to meet with the devil.

Goodman Brown’s religious convictions are rooted in his belief that those around him are also religious.

This kind of faith, which depends so much on other people’s views, is easily weakened. When Goodman Brown discovers that his father, grandfather, Goody Cloyse, the minister, Deacon Gookin, and Faith are all in league with the devil, Goodman Brown quickly decides that he might as well do the same. Hawthorne seems to suggest that the danger of basing a society on moral principles and religious faith lies in the fact that members of the society do not arrive at their own moral decisions.

When they copy the beliefs of the people around them, their faith becomes weak and rootless.

Rip van Winkle and Young Goodman Brown

These two stories by Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne respectively, illustrate different examples of men wandering away from home, for somewhat different reasons, with somewhat the same results with the exception of the overall outcome upon the men. Careful analysis of the two stories can reveal both the similarities and the differences between the two, and how those things are important to the story as a whole.

Young Goodman Brown takes a look at the life of man after venturing into the woods in order to complete some unknown errand in the middle of the night.

He encounters an old man who bears a somewhat chilling resemblance of himself, as well as several other townspeople that have some significance in his life. He reaches his destination, which appears to be some sort of ritual, where he and his wife, who is ironically named faith, are to be initiated into what can be assumed to be a witches coven, due to the witch trials that had taken place in the same town nearly 150 years earlier.

Goodman Brown cries to heaven for salvation from this place, and the scene disappears.

The following day, after returning home, he has lost all faith in humanity, including his wife. He spends the rest of his life living in paranoia, therefore, his “dying hour was gloom”. What we see in this story is a man, who may or may not have dreamed the scene in which he took part, but nevertheless, he loses his entire faith in everything that he had previously been taught. From his christianity to his faith in his marriage, everything falls apart in his mind. Hawthorne, known to write about the hypocrisy of the puritan system, may have been using this story as a way to bring forth doubt in the minds of his readers and make them question the very foundation of the lifestyle of the puritans.

In the story of Rip Van Winkle, we see a man, who was much loved by the town for his good deeds, but not so much by his wife for his unwillingness to do hard work on the farm, causing their farm to fall into much disarray. One day, he leaves home with his dog to go squirrel hunting in order to escape the nagging of his wife. He ventures up into the mountains and encounters some men carrying moonshine up the mountain. He follows them and encounters more men playing a game of nine-pins and drinking. Having no regard for what may happen, he begins to drink with them. He soon falls asleep, to awake almost 20 years later, after the occurrence of the American Revolution.

He returns to his village to discover that no one recognizes him, except for his now grown daughter who takes him in. He resumes his previous life of stories and good deeds, but never any hard work. This story, seemingly much less symbolic than Young Goodman Brown, still has a very valid point to make. This story points to the idea that hard work leads to prosperity, and avoiding said work could lead to a life that passes you by in an instant, resulting in a person unrecognizable to society.These two stories have many surface level similarities, but very glaring differences in the implicated meaning of these stories. Both seem to show a man, running away from home for a short time to complete some sort of errand.

Both also result in the changing of said man, although much less Rip Van Winkle, into something a little less desirable. Young Goodman Brown loses all faith in his life and humanity, therefore making the rest of his life miserable, and some might even say, not worth living. Rip stays buy and large the same slacking person that he was, and some even called him blessed for missing the Revolution, but no doubt he had many hard feelings about missing out on the raising of his children and things of the sort. The stories however, approach the change in a very different way, particularly in the case of Young Goodman Brown.

This story illustrates the dissent into this man’s madness in a way that truly affects the reader, and perhaps achieves Hawthorne’s goal of undermining the authority and legitimacy of the puritan system. The story specifically points out areas of Goodman Brown’s life that he should place mistrust in, therefore giving specific examples of corruption in the system. Rip van Winkle however, shows only the results of the events that took place in the mountains that day, and only recap Rip’s ability to maintain his previous lifestyle, although with a major chunk missing. Overall, I think it would be easier to say that these stories are far more different than similar because, despite the similar beginning events of each story, the plots take very different directions for very different reasons, and tell much different stories as a whole.

The Dichotomy of Self Reliance and Conformity

The late 18th Century in American history was dominated by an era of emotional and individualistic values of oneself, and a powerful sense of limitless possibilities. This was the Romanticism Period. An incredible number of miraculous masterpieces were contrived during this period of enlightenment, including Nathaniel Hawthorne’s dramatically thematic and ambiguous short story, “Young Goodman Brown”, as well as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s intriguingly influential and uplifting essay, “Self-Reliance”.

Hawthorne’s writing aspires to implicate theories and themes about the reality of the world we live in and to illustrate our individual limitations through the art of symbolism and irony.

Emerson uses a unique approach in his writing, endeavoring to inspire people to appreciate the world they live in, and to have faith and confidence in themselves. Although it is profoundly clear that Hawthorne and Emerson have two imposingly different ideologies about life and personal limits, Hawthorne seems to integrate some of Emerson’s ideas and values in “Young Goodman Brown”.

Through his ingenuously brilliant use of several literary devices, including allegories, Hawthorne incorporates the idea that Young Goodman Brown fails to have faith in himself and is afraid of failure, which leads to his ultimate destruction. While Hawthorne weaves Emersonian thoughts, into his work such as those found in “Self-Reliance”, he also critiques them in “Young Goodman Brown” where he focuses on the theme of good and evil, which contradicts Emerson’s belief that people are innately pure and good.

The Romanticism Period in America consisted of two diverse categories, the enticing Dark Romantics and the inspirational Transcendentalists. Dark Romantics focus on themes of sin and evil, and believe that pain and temptations are great forces, which are meant to be dealt with and experienced. Dark Romantics are drawn to the strong images of the picturesque past through symbolism and tend to write with an ambiguity of manner on the complexities and ironies of life, qualities which Hawthorne successfully incorporated in “Young Goodman Brown”.

Notwithstanding Hawthorne’s Dark Romantic qualities, he does appear to embody some of the ideals and principals Transcendentalists, such as Emerson, abide by. Emerson, bearing an optimistic view of life and human nature, believed in promoting peace in the world by encouraging people to get in touch with their true self and tended to see things in either black or white.

In the beginning of “Young Goodman Brown”, the inexperienced character Goodman Brown, who shares Emerson’s vision of seeing people in black and white, presumes that everyone in his community is either good or bad. The similarity of beliefs between Hawthorne’s character, Goodman Brown and Emerson’s ideology, embraces Hawthorne’s implication of how inaccurate a person’s perception may be and how things are not always as they appear.

Although Goodman Brown held his family members in high regard, claiming, “my father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him”, he becomes flustered when the elder traveler, who accompanied him in his sinful journey through the woods, replies, “I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans;” reassuring Goodman Brown that his father and grandfather were not as innocent as he so robustly assumed. (102). Goodman Brown, being the innocent and gullible individual that he is, races to the conclusion that everyone is now evil, evidencing Emerson’s ideology of innocence and purity.

Emerson believes that it is wrong to allow one self to be influenced by another, and that one must trust in his or her own intuition rather than conform to the belief of others. Goodman Brown did the complete opposite. He immediately condemned his father and grandfather once his accompanying traveler argued that they too had sinned, leading him to loose faith in goodness. In support of Emerson’s ideology of trust, Hawthorne allows his readers to assume that Goodman Brown’s lack of personal trust is what leads him to isolation.

Hawthorne uses the idea of Goodman Brown’s journey in the form of a dream as a means to establish uncertainty in the mind of the reader. For the same reason, the narrator poses the question, “Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting? ” (111). Hawthorne leaves this question unanswered to show that it does not matter if Goodman Brown’s experience was real or a dream, but what matters is how it impacted him. According to Emerson, people must trust themselves before trusting others. One must have confidence in his or her own abilities.

Goodman Brown completely shunned everyone around him and isolated himself from his community, and although Emerson believed that conforming to society scatters one’s individual self, he would not have approved of isolationism. As expected, Emerson and Hawthorne clearly had different views about American culture and society. Emerson viewed America as a new and innocent country with a clear slate, unburdened by previous historical events as Europe had been. Hawthorne on the other hand has a more realistic view of America. He realizes that America is not as innocent as Emerson implies.

He believes that America’s history is still part of the country and he acknowledges human fault. When the devil reassures Goodman Brown, “I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem;” Hawthorne illustrates through real events in American history how the Quakers were persecuted by the Puritans in the 1650s, and also refers to King Philips War between the Puritans and Native Americans, when the devil tells Brown that he helped his father, “set fire to an Indian Village, in King Philip’s war”, implying that America does not have such a clear slate (102).

Hawthorne seems to have the ability to represent a character, such as Young Goodman Brown, that has characteristics and beliefs that he does not necessarily approve of. The reason for this is possibly because his family’s history stretches back to the early days of the Salem Witch Trials where he became well acquainted with Puritan society.

Being a master of symbolism, Hawthorne successfully conveys his message of acknowledgement of human faults and that there is as much evil in the world as there is good. Although the theme of good and evil that Hawthorne believes in does not coincide with Emerson’s belief that people are purely good, the theme of trust and faith in “Young Goodman Brown” seems to relate to both of the authors’ theories.

Emerson’s support of the idea that people should believe in themselves directly opposes Hawthorne’s idea, as portrayed by Goodman Brown, which questions whether people are truly fit to make decisions for themselves. Emerson espouses the ideology of “Self-Reliance” whereas Hawthorne takes on a conformist view. It would probably be safe to say that our own personalities are made up of a combination of both schools of thought rather than strictly one or the other.

Blinded by Pride: A Study of Othello and Young Goodman Brown

“Pride cometh before a fall” according to the well-known biblical adage and the two characters about to be discussed each has pride powerful enough to have blurred their judgment. Therefore, excessive pride has caused irreparable damage, thus the fall, in each of the two title characters. The fall may have come in different forms but the emphasis is on isolation in both cases. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”, the main character becomes isolated from his neighbors because of his pride.

His suspiciousness of everyone else has led to his downfall. Meanwhile, in William Shakespeare’s “Othello” the main character’s pride is linked to his insecurities. Othello’s noble self-pride is sometimes extreme that he believes Iago’s whispers about infidelity on his wife Desdemona’s part. The imagined infidelity is hurtful, isolating Othello from Desdemona. At the same time, it confirms Othello’s belief that people consider him inferior and that nobody can truly love a Moor as black as he.

Even other people such as the villain Iago, believes that: “I say, put money in thy purse. It cannot be that Desdemona should long continue her love to the Moor– put money in thy purse” (1. 3. 342-344). Excessive pride can sometimes make a person feel superior to and patronizing towards others. Goodman Brown believes that he is chaste and good compared to his fellowmen because of what he believes he has witnessed. Because of this vision of himself being separate from the others’ downfall, he regards others with distrust and disdain.

After all, other people are sinners in his eyes. “A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a 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 (Hawthorne). It can be said, on the other hand, that in the case of Goodman Brown pride has been mixed with paranoia and hallucination that may have resulted from consorting with the Devil.

Nevertheless, in consorting with the Devil, Goodman Brown has already demonstrated pride. He thinks that he can cross towards the dark side and come back into the light anytime. In dealing with the Devil, he has rejected God and “Faith” in both its meanings: his wife and his faith in God. Moreover, Goodman Brown must have thought of himself as special in order for him to think that when he has sinned, the reasons and consequences for him are different from those placed upon the others whom he has learned to be suspicious of.

Being proud of oneself can sometimes be noble and right. However, this same pride can be twisted into something that dwells merely on self-preservation and suspicion. Hatred, suspicion and a diffident belief that nobody can truly love a Moor have resulted into Othello’s self-destruction and his desire to destroy the one he believes do not really reciprocate his love. The loving words turn into calculating plans for murder, all because of the word of one person: “Ay let her rot, and perish, and be calm to-night; for she shall not live.

No, my heart is turn’d to stone” (4. 1. 178). He also displays pride by immediately accepting his rushed judgment. It seems to be an example of excessive pride for Othello to believe himself to be such a good judge of character that there is no need to investigate into the veracity of the accusation. This fast judgment may also have sprung from Othello’s self-esteem. If there were mere suspicions before then Iago’s accusation has actually become the validation that Othello needs in order to boost his self-esteem.

He has find a companion whom he thought to be trustworthy because this other person is not afraid to tell him things that some people may be afraid to speak of with him because of his high position. Othello may have believed that others are just afraid to offend him by not revealing to him that he is difficult to love. Then, here is Iago who talks about his wife’s treachery. Though he initially seeks evidence that will prove his wife’s adulterous liaison, when presented the alleged evidence from the very same accuser his mind has become readily made up.

Since the presence of excessive pride in Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” has been established, it is the time to look at the fall, or the ultimate result of pride in the life of the main character. It must be recalled that his first move is to leave his wife Faith as well as his faith in God the night he decides to take a walk in the woods. “As nearly as could be discerned, the second traveler was about fifty years old, apparently in the same rank of life as Goodman Brown, and bearing a considerable resemblance to him, though perhaps more in expression than features” (Hawthorne).

This resemblance may be a sign that deep within Goodman Brown’s pious surface, there is a person who longs to venture into the dark side. It can also mean that the Devil is flattering him in order for him to succumb further into temptation. And so he does, but not in a way that is clear to him. He thinks that he has escaped evil because the Devil has let him see evil everywhere and in everyone, and he has not, from what he can remember, joined their “coven”. …elders of the church have whispered wanton words to the young maids of their households; how many a woman, eager for widows’ weeds, has given her husband a drink at bedtime and let him sleep his last sleep in her bosom; how beardless youths have made haste to inherit their fathers’ wealth; and how fair damsels… have dug little graves in the garden, and bidden me, the sole guest to an infant’s funeral” (Hawthorne). Goodman Brown has no idea that the Devil has polluted his thoughts and has destroyed his faith by giving him a corrupted view of the world.

He can no longer see goodness in any person and has thus lost contact with everyone else. Goodman Brown perceives even the most devout actions as mere pretense and at worse, blasphemy, performed in order to mask sin and evil. Because of this distress, he even doubts his own memories from the forest. However, unlike Kaye in the Snow Queen who in the end loses the splinter from his eye, the perception of evil has become too strong for Goodman Brown that it has affected his relationships with everyone. When he finally dies, “they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom” (Hawthorne).

For Othello, his fall is more tragic. It is quite unlike the quiet destruction of Goodman Brown’s soul. Because of excessive pride, the Moor has murdered his own wife. Instead of humbling himself and not minding the possibility of being a laughingstock and a cuckold, he should have confronted his wife directly about the matter and believed what she has to say. The marriage can still be saved but his wounded ego cannot. It is this ego’s demands that he has listened to along with the slanderous lies uttered by Iago, who only seeks to destroy Othello for promoting someone else not him.

Meanwhile, Othello does not know that his anger and murderous energy have been directed wrongfully. If only he has known that it is Iago who is a villainous, two-faced liar. If only he has realized this and the fact that his wife is innocent early enough to save both him and his wife from the tragedy that ultimately strikes them. It is too late when he finally confronts Cassio, his wife’s suspected lover: “O the pernicious caitiff! How came you, Cassio, by that handkerchief that was my wife’s” (5. 2. 323-324)? The man in question has finally had the chance to explain why such evidence exists in his hands.

Finally, Othello discovers his folly and how he “threw a pearl away richer than all his tribe” (5. 2. 352). The Moor realizes that he has thrown away a woman who loves him truly, but whose love he is suspicious of and is therefore not worthy of. In the two texts, excessive pride is shown to be an evil in itself. Before Goodman Brown has taken a walk with the Devil he must have been a proud man already. This is the weakness that the Devil is able to identify and play with. This ends up into a lonely life and death for the title character.

In Shakespeare’s “Othello”, excessive pride prevents the main character from thinking clearly, exploring the situation and saving his and Desdemona’s life from the violent end they have suffered. If the moral of “Young Goodman Brown” is to see your own faults and weaknesses before condemning others’, “Othello” reminds the readers of the value of setting aside the ego in order to make the right decisions. Moreover, if Goodman Brown and Othello have not isolated themselves from others, they may have seen the truth and see through the lies.

Examining the Conflict of Good versus Evil in Young Goodman Brown

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story entitled Young Goodman Brown is about a man who takes his journey to the forest to attend a special congregation—without knowing its real purpose in his life. Goodman Brown, the narrative’s protagonist believes that his faith is constant, true, and immovable, but as he takes his journey to the forest, readers realize that the main character’s faith is depthless. He creates evil thoughts throughout his journey, which makes his faith weaker, especially when he encounters the prayerful and vigilant people of his community during his walk.

As he steps into the forest to attend the congregation, the evil starts to shake his faith and begins to disrupt his beliefs. The conflict of good versus evil is depicted through Goodman Brown’s unstable mind, inconsistent faith, and distrust to the people around him. This conflict changes Goodman Brown’s idea of trust and faith, as well as his way of life and relationship to others, especially his wife.

The conflict of good versus evil emerges through Goodman Brown’s unstable mind, but his wife, Faith, is trying to keep his belief. When Young Goodman Brown is about to leave, his wife said: “Then God bless you! And may you find all well when you come back” (Hawthorne 190). Goodman Brown’s journey is for the benefit of evil—though he insists that it is for him and Faith, but his wife is trying to restrict him to continue his travel. However, even if Goodman Brown is blessed by his wife in his journey, he is aware of the evil’s existence and its power to hide and seek in the forest.

While walking, he said: “There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree. What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!” (191). The devilish Indians are symbolisms of evil in this novel—and due to his unstable mind, Goodman Brown is prone to evil thoughts. Even if he has faith and belief in his religion, Goodman Brown cannot stop himself from thinking about negative thoughts because the evil is leading him to the devil’s congregation. Therefore, Goodman Brown’s unstable mind serves as the evil’s instrument to disrupt his faith.

Conflict between good and evil exists when Goodman Brown begins his distrust to his community. As he thinks about the devil and his wife, Goodman Brown asked the traveler: “Friend, my mind is made up. Not another step will I budge on this errand. What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil when I thought she was going to heaven: is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith and go after her?” (195) As Goodman Brown walks into the forest, he encounters different people taking their journey to the congregation—they are the prayerful and religious ones in the community.

As he sees them, he begins to distrust them, which makes him think of going back to his wife. Goodman Brown does not know how to identify the difference between good and evil in the middle of his journey, so when he sees Faith into the congregation, he said: “My Faith is gone! There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given” (197).

Faith is not only the protagonist’s wife, but also a symbolism of his belief in his religion. When he says his Faith is gone, it means that his faith to his community disappears because he believes that these people lives with the devil and not with their God. Goodman Brown fails to trust the people around him and think that they are evil because deep inside him, he is defending himself from being part of the devil.

Goodman Brown experiences conflict of good versus evil due to his inconsistent faith. The forest is a symbolism of evil because there is “no church had ever been gathered or solitary Christian prayed” (196)—and Goodman Brown takes this path as a sign of his union with the devil. Despite of his wife’s disapproval, the protagonist continues his journey, which proves his inconsistent faith to his religion. When he is about to see the congregation and feel the evil spirit within his midst, the protagonist realizes that his faith is gone with him.

As he tries to restore his faith, Goodman Brown shouted: “With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” (196). The protagonist is trying to use his faith to keep him away from harm, but his soul is offered to the evil. Seeing his community being part of the congregation is a justification of his inconsistent faith because he does not trust anyone around him, even his faith that should only be his source of strength. As he demonstrates his inconsistent faith, his evil attacks his body, mind, and soul.

Goodman Brown is a good man, but he fails to bring his faith in his journey to the forest. The conflict of good versus evil emerges when he decides to leave Faith and takes his journey alone. He leaves his faith in his house and thinks that he can overcome any obstacle in his path, but he is unsuccessful because unstable mind, inconsistent faith, and distrust to the people around him become the instrument of evil to own his mind, body, and soul. As a result, Goodman Brown’s mind, body, and soul are eaten by the devil—and no matter how he tries to keep his faith; he cannot restore his belief because the evil lies within his wholeness.

Allegory of Young Goodman Brown

The story, “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne has a lot of allegories. It is a moral story that is told through the corruption of a religious person. Goodman Brown is a Puritan minister who lets his pride and belief in himself interfere with his relations with the community after he meets with the devil, which causes him to live the life of not knowing who to trust or believe in his own community. In the beginning when Faith, Brown’s wife, asks him not to go.

Brown says to her “My love and my Faith … this one night I must tarry away from thee”. DiYanni 273) When he says his “love” and his “Faith”, he is talking to his wife, but he is also talking to his “faith” to God.

He is headed into the woods to meet with the Devil, and by doing so he leaves his faith in God with his wife. His pride made him feel that he can sin and meet with the Devil because of this promise that he made to himself.

This promise is not without irony because when Goodman Brown came back he no longer looks at his wife with the same faith he had before. When Brown left and met with the Devil, he declares that the reason he was late was because “Faith kept me back awhile. ( DiYanni 273) From talking to the devil Brown says that he comes from a “race of honest men and good Christians” ( DiYanni 274) .

The Devil then pointed out his father and grandfather when they were flogging a woman or burning an Indian village. These words were ironic because of the bad things that they had done and it shows that he does not come from “good Christians. ” ( DiYanni 274) The devil continued trying to convince Brown, but he did not give in because of his wife, “Faith”. And because of her, he couldn’t continue.

The Devil agrees with him and tells him to turn back to prevent that “Faith should come to any harm” like the old woman in front of them on the path. ( DiYanni 274) The turning point of the story starts when Brown’s is confuse about his faith because the woman on the path is the woman who “taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser. ” ( DiYanni 275) The Devil and the woman had spoken to each other, Brown continues to walk on with the Devil in the disbelief of what he had just witnessed.

Brown again decides that he will no longer continue and says that just because his teacher was not going to heaven, why should he “quit my dear Faith, and go after her”. ( DiYanni 275) The Devil tosses Brown his staff and leaves him. Brown begins to think to himself about his situation and his pride in himself begins to build. Brown is feeling good about his strength in resisting the Devil, he see a carriage coming, and he hears the voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin. He overhears their conversation and hears them discuss about a “goodly young woman to be taken in to communion”! ( DiYanni 276) that evening at that night’s meeting and fears that it may be his Faith. When he heard this he became weak and fell to the ground. He “begins to doubt whether there really was a Heaven above him” and this is a key point when his faith begins to corrupt him. Once he begins to doubt whether this is really what he had heard or not, the sound comes to him again and this time it is followed by “one voice, of a young woman”. ( DiYanni 277) He believed it was Faith and he yells out her name in the forest.

A pink ribbon flies through the air and he grabs it. At this moment, he has lost all faith in the world “My Faith is gone” and was convince that there were “no good on earth. ” ( DiYanni 277) Brown was manipulated simply by his belief. Not only was his wife gone but also his faith, because to him his wife was the only one who was innocent, but also now she was taken open by the evil in the town. At this point Brown had lost his faith in God, therefore there was nothing holding his instincts from moving towards evil.

Brown then goes mad and challenges evil. He feels that he will be the downfall of evil and that he is strong enough to overcome it all. He believes that he is better than everyone else in that he alone can destroy evil. He says this remark because he is upset about the lost or his wife to evil. Throughout the story, Brown does not show any emotions like a normal person would have had. The author shows that Brown has “no compassion for the weaknesses he sees in others, no remorse for his own sin, and no sorrow for his loss of faith. (Easterly 339) This is an example of how Goodman Brown chose to follow his head rather than his heart. The “Young Goodman Brown” ends with Brown returning to Salem at early dawn and looking around like a “bewildered man. ” He cannot believe that he is in the same place that he just the night before.

Salem was no longer home to him. He felt like an outsider in a world of Devil worshippers and because his “basic means of order, his religious system, is absent, the society he was familiar with becomes nightmarish. (Shear 545) He comes back to the town “projecting his guilt onto those around him. ” Brown shows his anger towards the community when he sees Faith who is overwhelmed with excitement to see him and he looks “sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a greeting. ” ( DiYanni 280) Brown cannot even stand to look at his wife with whom he was at the convert service with. Goodman Brown was devastated by the discovery that the potential for evil resides in everybody. The rest of his life is destroyed because of he has to face the truth and live with it.

The story, which may have been a dream, and not a real life event, created a lot of doubt in Brown’s mind that cut him off from his fellow man and leaves him alone and depressed. So no matter if it was a dream or not it had a huge impact on him. His life ends alone and miserable because he was never able to look at himself and realize that what he believed were everyone else’s faults were his as well. His excessive pride in himself led to his isolation from the community. Brown was buried with “no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom. “