Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" is an interesting short story that creatively tells two stories at once. One story is of a man leaving his wife one night and venturing into the woods, and the other is of his struggle with his religious faith. In reading this story, it is beneficial for one to look at it from a formalistic point of view. Formal analysis makes the reader look closely at how a story is written to see its deeper meaning. Hawthorne takes advantage of careful word choice and images to create a picture of one man's journey that can easily parallel our own.
The word choice of every story plays a key role in understanding the story. In "Young Goodman Brown" almost every word contains a special meaning. The title Hawthorne gives to his story is simple and informative; it tells the reader right away that the focus of the story is a young man. The use of the name Brown is also significant. The name is universal so that it can relate to anyone (Rhetoric 102L class discussion, January 15 2001). The fact that his title is Goodman, instead of Mister, suggests that it took place around colonial times. The name of his wife, Faith, is a clue held in the opening paragraph of the text that gives the reader and idea of what the story is about. Though out the story Goodman Brown says phrases such as, "Faith kept me back a while," which on the surface looks as though he is talking about his wife; however just below the surface he is talking about how his faith in God that kept him from heading towards the Devil. (HCAL 376). Caref...
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...odman Brown goes is also significant. The Puritans believed that the witches and even the Devil lived in the woods, which can be a hint foreshadowing what Goodman Brown will find in the forest.
"Young Goodman Brown" is full of carefully selected words. Each place, item, and name described is significant to the story. The word, faith, has two functions, a name and a belief. Images such as the pink ribbons and the staff are useful for more than their everyday function. Hawthorne knows the power of words and chooses wisely, thus creating a story that, when looked at beyond the surface, has a completely new meaning.
- (Guerin, Wilfered; Labor, Earle; Morgan, Lee; Reesman, Jeanne; Willingham, John, A Handbook of Critical Appraches to Literature, New York, Oxford University Press, 1999.)
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