The Empiricist Journey of Young Goodman Brown

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The Empiricist Journey of Young Goodman Brown

In the late 17th century, John Locke was one of the most influential people of his age. He was a renowned philosopher who established radical ideas about the political, social, and psychological ideals of mankind. One of his philosophical ideas, which he is said to be the founder of, is British Empiricism. This idea holds that "all knowledge is derived from experience whether of the mind or the senses" ("Empiricism" 480). In any man’s life, there arises such a point in time where he comes to the realization that there is a sense of evil in the world. Whether it is by something as subtle as locking the door at night before going to bed or being directly confronted at gun point as a man demands your tennis shoes, at some point man will realize that the innocence of his childhood does not last forever. Locke believed that people gain knowledge from their own personal experience. For Young Goodman Brown, this experience comes with his journey into the forest with the fellow traveler as chronicled in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story. Initially, Brown was, as his namesake foretells, a "young, good man" who believes in man’s basic goodness, yet within the inner desires of his heart wishes to see what all the world had to offer. Therefore, he set off on a "journey" into the forest to explore the world of this unknown evil. The story of "Young Goodman Brown" is a classic example of the empiricist ideas of Locke in how the intrigues of the unknown beckoned Young Brown as he experienced the transition between his initial idea of man’s basic goodness to the reality that evil exists in the heart of every man.

However, before we can analyze Young Goodman Brown’s journey in the for...

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...h he knows little about.

Works Cited

Brown, Vivenne. "The ‘Figure’ of God and the Limits to Liberalism: A Rereading of Locke’s ‘Essay’ and ‘Two Treatises’". Journal of the History of Ideas 60.1 (1999): 85.

"Empiricism." New Encyclopaedia Brittanica. 1998 ed. Volume 4, 480.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown." The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. 268-276.

Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. New York: Penguin, 1974.

Meyer, Michael, ed. "A Study of Three Authors: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Flannery O’Connor, and Alice Munro." The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. 267.

Tritt, Michael. "‘Young Goodman Brown’ and the Psychology of Projection". Studies in Short Fiction. 23 (1996): 113-117.

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