YGB Essay: Analyzing Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown Young Goodman Brown essays

1377 words
1377 words

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. It appears that Satan is trying to relate to the human race through making it seem as if he was once good (`his once angelic nature'), and he went through what each one of them had or was about to go through in order to become evil. He then goes on to say that,`Depending on one another's hearts, ye had still hoped that virtue were not all a dream' indicating that some of his listeners may, up to this point, still hope that goodness would overcome evil. Satan then brainwashes the community to believe that `evil is the nature of mankind' and that they are `undeceived' in coming to this conclusion. He repeats the word evil and say's that it is the only way that the human race as a whole can obtain happiness. In conclusion, Satan, welcomes them, once again, as his children, to sacrifice their souls to him through the `communion of your race'. As "Young Goodman Brown" begins, we are introduced to goodman Brown and his wife Faith as they bid farewell to one another on the streets of Salem village. It is sunset and goodman Brown is setting off on a journey to run a secret errand. We later find out that he is planning on meeting Satan and sacrificing his soul to pure evil. Throughout the story, goodman Brown is tormented by the idea of evil and he is doubtful of weather or not he should continue on his journey. He is finally persuaded, however, when he hears Faith turn herself over to Satan. Toward the end of the story we find out that this whole excursion may have been a dream, but even so, goodman Brown was so impacted by it that he will never recover to live a peaceful, happy life. He will die a miserable death, with no hopeful verse carved upon his tomb, for as we are told in the final line of the story, `his dying hour was gloom'. "Young Goodman Brown" seems to deal with evil and secret guilt, as do many of Hawthorne's works. This story illustrate's that man's sense of guilt can distort his judgment of good vs. evil. It is apparent that goodman Brown is overcome by some form of this guilt and therefore is obsessed with evil. From the beginning of the story, goodman Brown is already faced with guilt over what he is about to do. As he states, `Poor little Faith! What a wretch am I, to leave her on such an errand!', he is already condemning himself. As he proceeds on his secret journey, he begins to view everything in terms of good or evil. The further he gets, the harder it is for him to distinguish between the two. As we are never told for sure whether or not goodman Brown was dreaming, it seems to me that he was. I feel that he conjured up the image of Satan in his head in order to deal with the secret guilt he was experiencing. He lets this image of Satan lead him through the forest and, inevitably, to the site where the evil meeting would take place. Every time goodman Brown would begin to have doubts about continuing on his evil journey, Satan would either tell him a story such as the one about how he and his father and grandfather had all been very close, and he had led them down this path many a time, or he would point out an upstanding member of the Salem village community who was heading down the same path to partake in the same evil meeting. Goodman Brown is trying to make himself feel better by viewing the people he thinks the highest about as doing the same thing he is. He is justifying his actions by making it appear in his own head that anybody would do what he is doing and therefore it is okay for him to continue down the path leading to ultimate evil. He is using the good in others such as deacon Gookin, Goody Cloyse, and even his wife Faith in order to create the evil that may lessen his own guilt about taking the path he has chosen to take. This is all leading up to the climax of the story in which Satan is addressing the community before him and explaining how mankind is evil by nature and can find happiness in nothing that is good. Here goodman Brown is, once again, creating this image in his head. He is being torn between good and evil as he has been throughout the story but here it is different because it is the moment of truth in which he would either choose good over evil or evil over good. We never know which he ended up choosing, but it appears that he chose evil because for the rest of his life, he can see no good in anything or anybody. Evil rules his existence as he is haunted by guilt that will not let him enjoy the beautiful things in this world. There is much symbolism throughout this story. First of all, the fact that goodman Brown's wife is names Faith is extremely ironic since it appears that goodman Brown has none. Faith seems to represent the good that remains on earth. As goodman Brown states, `she's a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.' The fact that goodman Brown claims that she is an angel put here on this earth demonstrates the fact that he doesn't want to associate Faith with the evil he may see in mankind. He uses Faith throughout the story in ironic ways. For example, `Faith kept me back a while' can be taken to mean that goodman Brown is late meeting Satan because of his wife or because of his actual faith in the good in himself and mankind. This happens again when goodman Brown cries out, `Faith! My Faith is gone!'. He could be referring to his wife's encounter with Satan or he could be indicating that he has lost his faith in God or in mankind. A second symbol is Satan's staff. It is portrayed as being crooked and black like a serpent. A serpent is thought of as being an evil creature so it is appropriate that Satan be carrying such a staff. It is also symbolic that every living thing Satan touches withers up and dies. This demonstrates how this evil apparition can suck the beauty as well as the life out of anything with which it comes in contact. The dark forest itself symbolizes the dark and evil nature of goodman Brown's journey. Finally, the fact that the story takes place in Salem village is ironic in the sense that the Salem witchcraft trials took place there. The town, itself, has a history of being filled with evil so it is a good place for this story to take place. The complete passage: "`Lo! there ye stand, my children,' said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad, with its despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race. `Depending upon one another's hearts, ye had still hoped, that virtue were not all a dream. Now are ye undeceived! Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome, again, my children, to the communion of your race!'

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how satan addresses the salem village community in an 'almost sad' tone in order to seem sympathetic or sorry for the downfall of mankind from good to evil.
  • Introduces goodman brown and his wife faith as they bid farewell on the streets of salem village. they later find out that he is planning on meeting satan and sacrificing his soul to pure evil.
  • Opines that goodman brown will never recover to live a peaceful, happy life, as he is told in the final line of the story that his dying hour was gloom.
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