Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown – Conflict, Climax, Resolution

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“Young Goodman Brown” – Conflict, Climax, Resolution

Edmund Fuller and B. Jo Kinnick in “Stories Derived from New England Living” state that “’Young Goodman Brown’ uses the background of witchcraft to explore uncertainties of belief that trouble a man’s heart and mind” (31). Are these critics’ statement correct? This essay will examine Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” to determine the conflict, climax and resolution.

The conflict between pride and humility is the direction that Clarice Swisher in “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography” tends: Hawthorne himself was preoccupied with the problems of evil, the nature of sin, the conflict between pride and humility” (13). There is little doubt about the pride of the protagonist as he scolds his wife for not fully trusting him: "’My love and my Faith,’ replied young Goodman Brown, ‘of all nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee. My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back again, must needs be done 'twixt now and sunrise. What, my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou doubt me already, and we but three months married!’" And looking at the end of the tale, perhaps it his Goodman’s pride which causes him to live the rest of his days in gloom; the opposite virtue of humility might ease his adjustment into a world of sinners.

Gloria C. Erlich in “The Divided Artist and His Uncles” says that “he let his more extravagant characters test the unlimited for him and sadly concluded that it was unlivable” (38). Stanley T. Williams in “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind” states: “What he wrote of . . . . unforgettable case histories of men and women afflicted by guilt, or, as he called it, by “a stain upon the soul” (43). Sculley Bradley, Richmond Croom Beatty and E. Hudson Long in “The Social Criticism of a Public Man” state: “He was absorbed by the enigmas of evil and of moral responsibility” (47).

Using an assortment of literary critical opinion, this reader considers that the central conflict in the tale is an internal one - the conflict in the mind and soul of Goodman Brown between joining the ranks of the devil, and remaining a morally good person, and the extension of this conflict to the world at large represented by the villagers of Salem.

It is a difficult personal journey for Young Goodman Brown, a young Puritan resident of Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1600’s to say goodbye to Faith on that fateful night and to keep a prior commitment made with an evil character (the devil) in the woods.
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