Does Young Goodman Brown Achieve Goodness?

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Does Young Goodman Brown Achieve Goodness? Nathaniel Hawthorne often emphasizes the ambiguous nature of sin, that good and evil do not exist in parallel with each other but at many times intersect with each other in his fiction. In "Young Goodman Brown," Hawthorne applies what he believes is the virtue of recognizing cosmic irony of taking into account the contradictions inherent in the human condition, to his portrayal of Young Goodman Brown. According to Hawthorne's view, Browns failure to recognize the inherent sinfulness in himself as well as the rest of humanity, results, not in a rewarding life of reveling in righteousness, but in isolation and obscurity. Hawthorne juxtaposes the village of Salem, Massachusetts in the early 1690's, where doctrinal law and Puritan theology rule, with the mystical forest where evil and the supernatural reside to symbolically represent Brown's own misguided perception of the mutual exclusivity of good and evil. Brown connects the world of goodness with his wife Faith, who he believes he is leaving behind in the village while he makes his journey into the wilderness. He describes her as a "blessed angel on earth" to whom he vows to return "after this one night I'll cling to her skirts forever and follow her to heaven"(65, 65). Brown's characterization of Faith indicates that he believes he can travel between the world of sin and the world of goodness and remain unscathed or unchanged by the experience. However, Hawthorne creates the conflict of the ambiguous nature of sin in humanity for Brown with certain key symbols. For instance, Hawthorne uses Faith's pink ribbons, to symbolize the notion that although the world of the village is supposed to be that of goodness and purit... ... middle of paper ... fact that sin is a part of human nature. The inability of Brown and Hilda to recognize Hawthorne's concept that humanity resides not on either the side of evil or the side of virtue, but somewhere in between the two where one can acknowledge one's own sinfulness as well as the sins of humanity, but one can also feel compassion for ones fellow human beings despite the sin, is what causes their weakness. Young Goodman Brown, by not noticing the nature of Faith's pink ribbons and Hilda, by looking at "humanity with angel eyes"(55) rather than with the eyes of a woman, both sacrifice the compassion which would allow them to make meaningful and satisfying connections with their fellow human beings. Works Cited: Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Julia Reidhead. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1998.

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