Reflection On Young Goodman Brown: Analytical Essay

May 18, 2022 by Essay Writer

The short story “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne may show that the people who appear represent morality have secrets to hide and overall wickedness exists in every human.

My thesis may be misinterpreted; I do not mean to explicitly state that everyone is mischievous. Hawthorne himself frequently said that there is evil in every human heart and that evil impulses visit every human heart. However, he did not say evil is inherent. In the same way, my argument does not assert that wickedness is inborn, but rather, it exists and can be brought out.

Hawthorne uses an allegorical message throughout the story to show the evils of the devil, the world, and people. This can be seen in Young Goodman Brown’s experience in dark forest and the Puritan faith Brown was associated with. The short story has a hidden meaning, being the fall of man, in order to illustrate what he sees as hypocrisy in religion. Hawthorne sets up a story of a man who is tempted by the devil and yields because of the weakness of his faith.

When the reader is first introduced to Brown, we make him out to be a saint. However, he was motivated by self-interest to deliberately and knowingly indulge in sin. His confidence to yield to sin shows through is actions. At an earlier time, he had promised to visit Satan. He had not been loyal to Faith and expected to be loyal after one more indulgence in sin, as if there had been a of sort desire to do wrong many times, and allowing himself to face goodness again. Hawthorne’s work shows various concepts such as the reality of sin, the pervasiveness of evil, the results of doubt and disbelief, and the secret sins of every person.

A concept that is prominent in the short story is duplicity. The deceptive nature of people can ultimately be shown through the validity of names in the short story. The names of each of the characters must carry some sort of significance because they reflect characteristics that are not present in those characters.

The name “Goodman Brown” is double-dealing. “Goodman’ is a name that may bring to mind a man of innocence and the will to do good, yet the last name Brown suggests something dirty or soiled which may explain his the sin he committed. This ambiguous name is also related to how he is as a man. He shows both innocence and corruptibility as he wavers between believing in the inherent goodness of the people around him and believing that the devil has taken over the minds of all the people he loves.

Goodman’s wife’s name is Faith, which does not reflect the name she represents. Initially she is represented as reserved; the pink ribbons in her hair to me portrays innocence. Because Faith is seen as the epitome of morality, Goodman assures himself that if Faith remains godly, then his own faith is worth fighting temptation to maintain because she seems to be the most pure-hearted person. Although from the beginning she seems like an innocent woman, Faith has been corrupted and attends an evil ceremony leading to Goodman believing in the absolute evil at the heart of man.

Goodman sees an old woman who he realizes that he knows, her name is Goody, who is known in the community to be a pious old woman. Goodman becomes embarrassed and does not want her to see him, however, she surprisingly reveals herself to be a witch. Notice how both of these characters have similar names, but their names do not match their identity.

People in the story take on appearances that are opposite to their true selves. A devil appears as an old man, and even objects take on a dual nature. Goodman Brown meets a man who carries a staff, which turns into a snake that twists and seems to “wriggle itself like a living serpent.’ Seeing these events unfold, the readers would quickly realize that nothing is as it seems. Through the use of deceptive imagery, there is a creation of a sense of uncertainty that illuminates the theme of man’s inability to operate within a framework of moral absolutism.

If one looks into it closely they may agree that our protagonist is, in fact, not a godly man but rather has a heart of darkness. Goodman’s actions support the view that wickedness exists in every human. Brown is a Puritan, and this religion stressed that each man had free will to choose and the sanctity of his/her soul was at risk; in other words, every individual had the mandate to determine his destiny by making choices. If he is using is free will to do such things, he is making choices to determine his destiny in an evil way.

The sense of evil is not separate from Goodman but it is rather in it and of him. Goodman chose to leave to an unknown forest when the world was plunging into darkness against his wife’s wishes to wait until sunrise. Why did he enter the darkness? “But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness (Proverbs 4:19)”Goodman was very aware of the sinful nature of his actions and that he accepts without question the words of the devil.

One of the questions that goes unanswered is whether Brown was living in a dream or reality. If it was a reality, it is because of the wickedness in the world, and this kind of events witnessed by Brown in the forest can become more of a norm if that is the case. If it was a dream, the events occurred in his head, but what evilness could exist in his mind in order for him to think in this way?

Goodman Brown had lost his innocence regardless of whether he was dreaming or not. Goodman made a personal choice to go out to the wicked forest and he was not even compelled by an evil force or anything of the sort, which shows his evil intentions. Even if Brown did dream, it is a representation of the intrinsic immoral nature of his mind. If the events are real, then Brown can see for himself that all characters are deceitful.

Brown witnesses a black mass, during which many of the people he always thought were pious, God-fearing Christians appear to be devil-worshippers. Whether they are with Satan, or just playing around with the forces of darkness, this proves that not everything is as it seems. He thinks he sees his father beckoning towards him; this is the type of wickedness that Goodman witnesses.

There is a significant amount of ambiguity within the occurrences of the short story Young Goodman Brown. The eerie setting is a role in the story’s ambiguity. Walking in the forest veiled with darkness lead to the events that follow which consume his beliefs. Goodman enters the forest during nighttime; the darkness leads to Goodman and the reader not exactly knowing the reality of what he would encounter.

The narrator states: “It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude the traveler knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that, with lonely footsteps, he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.” Goodman must have been so intrigued by sin that he was willing to face the utter loneliness and darkness that came with meeting the devil. The very fact that Goodman Brown is willing to visit the forest when he has an idea of what will happen there is an indication of the corruptibility and evil at the heart of even the most faithful Puritan.

“Young Goodman Brown” is set in the New England town of Salem, where the Puritans tried to create a religious society with strict morals and pious norms. Puritan communities were profoundly focused on the value and necessity of the appearance of goodness, believing that it was a reflection of inner goodness and therefore a sign of one’s chance of heavenly redemption, and engaged in social policing to determine what counts as “good.” Hawthorne uses the setting to explore the dark side to the Puritan emphasis on the appearance of good.

Puritanism makes sharper distinction between sinners and non-sinners. Goodman initially believes wholeheartedly in Puritan tenets, he sees how everyone he knows to be holy be following Satan, he concludes that “There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name.” He concludes that everyone is evil and that the word “sin” has no value because everyone is sinful. What does this say about Puritanism and religion itself? Even with the religions familiarity with following God and being holy, the story’s allegory asserts that there is a dark side to Puritanism. As Brown faces the devil’s temptation, people easily persuade him to abandon what once grounded him, Puritanism.

I believe Hawthorne tries to relate his short story to that of the Adam and Eve story. God demanded them to not eat from the tree of life. Yet, Eve, who was convinced by the crafty snake, persuaded Adam to disobey God’s command and committed sin by eating the very forbidden fruit. Eve was aware that eating the fruit for the tree of life was prohibited. Brown’s religion should have held him back from his journey; he knew that he was doing a wrong deed.

Eve and Brown have something in common, they are both intrigued by something that reeled them into sin. Eve’s curiosity leads to her punishment; her banishment from the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve’s eyes were both opened and they knew good and evil. Goodman Brown’s curiosity leads to the devil telling Goodman Brown and Faith that their eyes will now be opened to the wickedness of themselves and those around them in the course of the

Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden and forced to undergo all the trials and tribulations of being human, and Goodman Brown returns from the forest to find that the joy in life has been taken away from him. He has become suspicious of those around him, even the woman he once loved.

The idea of witchcraft is not unknown to the Puritans; it appears throughout the Holy Bible. “The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so” (Deut. 18:14). The terms sorcery and divination are replacements for acts of witchcraft. The verse is clear that God does not permit such practices. Hawthorne brings witchcraft into his story as the catalyst that lured Brown into evil. Several of the characters share the names of individuals charged with witchcraft.

Hawthorne’s intention is to use the relationship between Brown and witchcraft to symbolize the relationship between man and his Puritan faith. As Brown was drawn closer to witchcraft and those who believed in it, he slipped further away from the life of meaning

This implies that the far an individual goes from God, the deeper s/he sinks into sin. The far Brown stayed around witches the deeper he sank into sin characterized by loss of meaningful life. In essence, God gives people purposes in life and without Him; life is meaningless as evidenced by Brown.

The devil operates on a worldwide scale as well as upon individuals. He explains that the pain, insanity evil and chaos we witness in this world as individuals can be traced back to the works of Satan. As of now man are interested in evil activities such as Satanism, astrology, occults, cults and so forth. These powers are stronger than we think; we are not as strong as we think to overcome them it will almost certainly mean that we will be defeated by them.

The Puritan faith was largely based on the conflict between good and evil. A devout Puritan resisted temptation, no matter how great, letting his faith guide him through life. Nathaniel Hawthorne used the escapades of Young Goodman Brown as an example of that good and evil conflict. Evil came in form of witches, serpent’s tails, and allusions; however in the end evil, was in the mind of Young Goodman Brown.

In puritan culture one was not expected to leave their partner or lose faith in the significant other. A man was to remain true to his faith and his wife. Marriage is known as when two become one.

Goodman Browns beliefs are shattered threefold, after he sees his father and grandfather in the presence of the devil. Goody Cloyse, the minister, was expected to be a godly person until the devil shows him that Goody is a witch with followers. Finally, he believes that Faith is pure and good, until the devil reveals at the ceremony that Faith, too, is corruptible. Goodman Brown’s awakening to the evil nature of those around him.

Goodman Brown believes in the public professions of faith made by his father and the elders of his church and in the societal structures that are built upon that faith. Hawthorne suggests, however, that behind the public face of godliness, the Puritans’ actions were not always Christian. The devil in the story says that he was present when Brown’s father and grandfather whipped Quakers and set fire to Indian villages, making it clear that the story of the founding of New England has a dark side that religion fails to explain. The very fact that Goodman Brown is willing to visit the forest when he has an idea of what will happen there is an indication of the corruptibility and evil at the heart of even the most faithful Puritan.

From a contemporary view, it is obvious that everyone is sinful and because of this sin has lost its meaning. Hawthorn’s short story is a way to criticize how Puritanism claims to be holy, but secretly is crafty. What Brown had experienced opened his eyes to the things initially unseen, he was able to see the lies secretly told in his religion and so he no longer adheres to it. He has lost all his faith in humanity and morality. After the experience, he is set to live a life of doubt and sadness. This story may just suggest that even with religion, there may be an impurity.

Citations

  1. McKeithan, D. M. “Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’: An Interpretation.” Modern Language Notes, vol. 67, no. 2, 1952, pp. 93–96. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2909960
  2. Fogle, Richard H. “Ambiguity and Clarity in Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown.’” The New England Quarterly, vol. 18, no. 4, 1945, pp. 448–465. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/361062
  3. Boonyaprasop, Marina. “Hawthorne’s Wilderness: Nature and Puritanism in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and “Young Goodman Brown”, Hamburg. Anchor Academic Pub., 2013
  4. Hurley, Paul J. “Young Goodman Brown’s ‘Heart of Darkness.’” American Literature, vol. 37, no. 4, 1966, pp. 410–419. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2923136
  5. Cook, Reginald. “The Forest of Goodman Brown’s Night: A Reading of Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown.’” The New England Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 3, 1970, pp. 473–481. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/363309
  6. SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Young Goodman Brown.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2007. Web. 16 Nov. 2019
  7. Ivyland Editors. “Young Goodman Brown. Puritanism in Hawthorne’s Story.” IvyPanda.com. September 10, 2019
  8. Walsh, Thomas F., Jr. ‘The Bedeviling of Young Goodman Brown.’ Modern Language Quarterly 19.4 (Dec. 1958): 331-336. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anna J. Sheets. Vol. 29. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Literature Resource Center. Web. 3 Apr. 2016
  9. ‘In ‘Young Goodman Brown,’ what is the wickedness that Brown witnesses and how are he and Faith involved in it?’ eNotes Editorial, 3 Mar. 2016, https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/in-young-goodman-brown-what-is-the-wickedness-641867. Accessed 12 Dec. 2019.
  10. Hagen, Anna. ‘Young Goodman Brown.’ LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 17 Aug 2015. Web. 12 Dec 2019.
  11. (New International Version, Proverbs 4:19, Deut. 18:14) New International Version. [Colorado Springs]: Biblica, 2011. BibleGateway.com. Web. Mar. 2011.

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