Young Goodman Brown Critical Analysis

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The Discovery of Evil and Fear “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a short story that delves into the idea that humans have the capacity for great evil. The story is interesting in this aspect because the characters are Puritans; a very conservative religious group from the 16th and 17th centuries in Salem, Massachusetts. Puritans were a holy and somewhat legalistic people who strove to commit no sin and follow God in everything. The title character of Hawthorne’s tale is a Puritan man named Young Goodman Brown. For three months he has been married to his…show more content…
This seems like a simple idea, but it is the main irony of the story that humanity can look like one thing and in actuality be something completely different. The stranger resembles Goodman Brown as an older version of him and carries a black staff that is shaped like a serpent. Brown is hesitant about going into the woods on an evil errand because he is convinced his father and forefathers never did anything of the kind. The stranger interrupts Brown and says: “Well said, Goodman Brown! I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that’s no trifle to say” (Hawthorne 929). He then proceeds tell of many times he had helped Brown’s father and grandfather commit atrocities and walked with them through the woods. Brown holds on to his faith in goodness, but there is now a seed of doubt being planted in his heart. There is a moment when the older stranger traveling with Brown begins to tell him how the governor and deacons of the church share his interests and malicious purposes. Brown’s fear grows and he tells the stranger of his dread of seeing the minister face to face every week and knowing his terrible secrets. The stranger laughs and they travel on, meeting an older woman named Goody Cloyse who used to teach Goodman Brown Sunday school. She takes the stranger’s staff and flies away; leaving Brown in confusion and…show more content…
Faith herself is a symbol of innocence and faith gained and lost. Brown finds her ribbons in the forest floating down from the sky and screams her name, but to avail. Faith’s pink ribbons symbolize a more blissful life that Goodman Brown loses by the end of the story. After the older stranger leaves him in the forest; Brown runs madly toward the presence of the previously feared evil. In his analysis of “Young Goodman Brown” Thomas F. Walsh Jr. explains, “He is alone, cut off from humanity with but one companion, the devil, his own evil genius. The farther he goes, the more hopeless his plight becomes” (Walsh, Jr. 3). Brown has taken the plunge into his misery and acceptance of his own
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