How Young Goodman Brown Became Old Badman Brown

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Nathaniel Hawthorne was a nineteenth-century American writer of the Romantic Movement. Born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804, he was one of those rare writers who drew critical acclaim during his lifetime. Hawthorne used Salem as a setting for most of his stories, such as The Scarlet Letter, The Blithedale Romance, and “Young Goodman Brown”. Today, readers still appreciate Hawthorne's work for its storytelling qualities and for the moral and theological questions it raises. Nathaniel Hawthorne's work is typically fraught with symbolism, much of it deriving from his Puritan ancestry; relatives of his were judges in the Salem witchcraft trials. “Young Goodman Brown” is an allegory whose characters play a major role in conveying the reoccurring theme of sin and retribution. The short story represents one man's journey to leave his faith, home, and security temporarily behind to take a walk with the devil into a dark forest. The forest is a symbol of the test of strength, courage, and endurance. Aside from “Young Goodman Brown,” forests carrying a negative or challenging connotation have been featured in other stories. For example, in the folk tale The “Three Bears”, Goldilocks encounters the cottage of the three bears in a forest; in Hansel and Gretel, the children's father takes them off into the forest to abandon them and they have to find their way back out; in Red Riding Hood, the little girl has to travel through the forest to her grandmother's house. There has always been an association between forests and evil because of its dark and gloomy nature. The forest further goes on to represent evil in “Young Goodman Brown” because Faith asks Goodman Brown not to go into the forest on his mysterious errand. What is his errand? Hawthorne never says, but clearly Goodman Brown has planned for it. He knows that the aim of his journey is less than wholesome, for he feels guilty at leaving Faith on such an errand (1264). Despite Faiths protest, Brown goes on his quest anyway. Thus, faith was not able to achieve the desired outcome. This means his faith tried least and got the least, for it was apparently weak. When faith is weak, not only it cannot control desires, but also it needs protection, for it could be lost at any time. That was what made faith beg Brown to put off his journey and stay with her th... ... middle of paper ... ...expresses the theme of sin and retribution. Goodman Brown’s life was destroyed because of his inability to face this truth and live with it. The story, which may have been a dream, planted the seed of doubt in Brown's mind, which consequently cut him off from his fellow man and leaves him alone and depressed. 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. Hawthorne was a writer way ahead of his time. His stories have been a testament to the timeless nature of his style. Although written by a Puritan, many of his stories challenge all of that which is puritan. In its day, this story raised controversy because of the risqué subject matter. Today, people can turn on the Disney channel and see adultery and satanic rituals. Society has been callused by the sands of time. Works Cited The Bible. 2nd ed. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1953. Martin, Terence. “Young Goodman Brown.” Nathaniel Hawthorne. 1st ed. New York: Twayne P, 1965. 90-99. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed, Nina Baym. 6th ed. 2003 1263-1272.

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