Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “Young Goodman Brown” portrays the growth of Young Goodman Brown through vivid symbolic setting. “Young Goodman Brown” is an allegory in which the setting is very important to the theme of the story. Throughout the narration, detailed setting and emblematic characters surround Goodman Brown. Goodman Brown is an Everyman character, which could be any one of us, struggling with his Puritan heritage, more specifically his spiritual faith.

The setting is first introduced during a conversation between Goodman and his wife “Faith” which is symbolic of his struggle with his spiritual faith throughout the story. Standing in the doorway of his own home he turns to confront his wife, who encourages him to stay at home with her, the first expression in the story of his internal conflict with his “faith”. Walking away from his wife, he begins to question himself in several ways. Why is he leaving? What is he longing for? Where exactly is he going? ““Poor little Faith!” Thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand!”” (391)

Without knowing the exact answer to any of the questions he enters the woods, dark and dreary, which Hawthorne uses to express the sense of evil. To understand the significance of the setting you have to understand the background of the Puritan culture which Hawthorne doesn’t state but expects the reader to know. Puritans live their lives for God. They believe everyone and everything is evil and one must live his life so to not unleash this inborn sin. Throughout the story, Goodman struggles with his own image of faith. Just as any young adult may step back and question their initial upbringing, he too, questions his forefathers. He doesn’t want to become who they were, the common feeling among younger generations. Brown could be any one of us who as we mature begin to discover flaws in our families and acquaintances we knew not existed.

Continuing down his path in the woods he runs across a man “in grave and decent attire”. The word “grave” suggests the danger and seriousness of the journey. Soon the author persuades us that this man represents the devil in Goodman’s struggle with his beliefs. The man is willing to lead Goodman deep into the forest, or in other words, deep into sin. The man even addresses Brown telling him...

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... himself from the generations before; he cannot completely separate himself from his parent’s faith and culture without losing his own identity.

Hawthorne displays vivid setting throughout “Young Goodman Brown” to help him deal with the insecurities concerning not only his character but also his own forefathers and his own faith. The setting in “Young Goodman Brown” is critical to understanding the internal struggle for maturation of the main character. From “Faith” his wife, his journey through the dark and lonely yet demon- populated woods, supernatural happenings, Hawthorne takes his readers on an adventure filled with symbolic setting. To fully appreciate and understand “Young Goodman Brown” one must recognize with and pull out the expression of allegory Hawthorne uses to fulfill the curiosity in young maturing minds. Goodman Brown could be any of us, struggling with the inconsistencies in our own lives, and the unknown journeys we will venture to take while trying to form our own identities of self and mature into functioning adults in our society.

Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodmam Brown", The Story and Its Writer, 4th ed. Ed. Ann Charters. Boston:
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