In Young Goodman Brown, Nathaniel Hawthorne points out in a not so subtle way the damning nature of the Puritan society. “All men are evil sinners, thus doomed to hell”, is what the puritans believed of themselves and others. This way of thinking led to a life of suspicion and dread. In Young Goodman Brown, Goodman Brown enters the forest at the start of the story, but the person that comes out of the forest sees the world in a whole new way. In the forest Goodman Brown experiences the “dream” which had a major effect in his life.
In an individual’s life, evil and temptation throughout situations will eventually be tested causing confusion and devastation of one’s emotions. In the short story “Young Goodman Brown,” the main character, Goodman Brown, experiences this point in his life. The author uses particular objects and people to enhance the effect of this situation in Goodman Brown’s life. Throughout the story “Young Goodman Brown,” Nathaniel Hawthorne uses Faith and her pink ribbons, the forest and Salem Village, and the serpent’s staff to show symbolism in Goodman Brown’s human nature and moral decisions.
Symbolism in “Young Goodman Brown” is not discrete. This makes analysis of this piece seemingly simple. We can observe the various roles that Goodman’s wife, Faith, holds in the story. In “Young Goodman Brown” Faith holds the major roles of purity and protection as Goodman embarks on his journey through the wilderness.
Young Goodman Brown, universally acclaimed as one of Hawthorne's best short stories, presents the student searching out its meaning with not only several possibilities but several rather ambiguous ones. D. M. McKeithan, in an article entitled " 'Young Goodman Brown': An Interpretation" (Modern Language Notes, 67 , 93), has listed the suggestions that have been advanced as "the theme" of the story: "the reality of sin, the pervasiveness of evil, the secret sin and hypocrisy of all persons, the hypocrisy of Puritanism, the results of doubt or disbelief, the devastating effects of moral scepticism . . . the demoralizing effects of the discovery that all men are sinners and hypocrites." Admittedly, these themes are not as diverse as they might at first appear. They are, with the possible exception of the one specifically mentioning Puritanism, quite closely related. But meaning is not restricted to theme, and there are other ambivalences in the story that make its meanings both rich and elusive. After taking into account some matters of text and genre, we shall look at "Young Goodman Brown" from our traditional approaches.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story, “Young Goodman Brown,” shows that sin is universal in nature. He exposes that every single person, no matter how pious or how evil they may appear on the outside all have committed sinful acts. For example, Brown sees his own deacon and reverend engaged in a discussion in which the deacon, states that the group of people that they are to meet up with “know almost as much devilry as the best of us” (29). This statement by the deacon shows not only an admittance that the supposedly pious clergy commit evil acts, but also that they are familiar enough with sin that they are considered masters of devilry. He shows that even leaders of the spiritual community, those whom citizens are supposed to look towards for moral
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.
The story Young Goodman Brown presents two themes; loss of innocence and coping with reality. Loss of Innocence is a major theme of the story and is easily seen. A loss of innocence is when those that do not know something horrible or do not believe in its existence come to an understanding of that horrible thing that forever changes them. The innocents in the story are Goodman Brown and his wife, Faith. Faith, we see is capable of attaining heaven(577), a good place where evil is unknown. Brown is also an innocent as shown by when the devil reveals to him a series of horribles as the two walk through the woods-namely that his grandfather, his mentor, and the preacher have all communed with the devil before (578-580). In the passage, the devil puts it upon himself to rectify this lack of understanding by informing those who had hoped for good, that their very nature is evil. The truth is what Goodman Brown had said before "There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil! for to thee is this world given(581)."
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” tells the story of a young man who decides to league himself with the devil. Goodman Brown is a citizen of a typical town with its share of good people and not-so good people. Goodman Brown believed that he knew the inhabitants of the town fairly well. He knew Goody Cloyse, for example, to be “a very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual advisor, jointly with the minister and Deacon Gookin” (598). He knew Deacon Gookin was a strict man of the Church and was always “bound to some ordination or ecclesiastical council” (599). However, in his travels through the woods with the old man, Goodman Brown notices Goody Cloyse progressing down the path.
It is impossible to fairly analyze Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, "Young Goodman Brown" around a single literary approach. American novelist, essayist, and poet, Herman Melville, once wrote about Hawthorn's short story that it over time, like wine, it only improves in flavor and body (The Life and Works of Herman Melville). Hawthorne's short story continues to get better with age, and carries today's readers into a world filled with a plethora of meanings for them to pick from its symbolism. Modern readers have interpreted the meaning of Goodman Brown's experience in many ways, but to pigeon hole the story into one view would destroy its veracity.
Analyzing Young Goodman Brown
"`Lo! there ye stand, my children In the first line of this passage, Satan is addressing the community of Salem village. He calls them `my children' making it seem as if he is there to protect or save them from the misery found on God's earth. He speaks to the people of Salem village in an `almost sad' tone in order to seem sympathetic or sorry for the downfall of mankind from good to evil.