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In the article, “‘Young Goodman Brown’ and the Psychology of Projection”, Michael Tritt critically analyzes Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” to construct the process of how Hawthorne regards Goodman Brown’s behavior. Tritt examines the phenomenon of projection in psychology and believes that “Brown’s compulsive condemnation of others, along with his consistent denial of his own culpability, illustrates a classically defined case of projection” (116). He defines projection as an unconscious process when a person projects their own traits or desires onto other people, thus representing a false perception on whom the projection is made.
Tritt perceives Goodman Brown’s withdrawal is from the persuasion that he has not fallen in with his devilish community, thus Goodman Brown projects his guilt to them in an attempt to escape a guilty subconscious. While Goodman Brown is in the forest, he locates his anxieties upon the community that he lives in. The experience in the forest actually depicts Goodman Brown’s own evils. Tritt refers to Goodman Brown snatching away a child being catechized by Goody Cloyse:
If Brown truly conceives of himself as fallen, why would he snatch the child from one fiend to yield yet another, namely himself? Brown must believe himself untainted, or at least less tainted than various members of his community. (115)
Michael Tritt believes that Brown’s anxieties inevitably stick within his subconscious forever.
The anxieties suggest a psychological design with aspects of misperception and false perception to reveal a projection process. Tritt asserts that Goodman Brown’s evil is located in others, and Brown believes himself to be without guilt although his desires are still in his subconscious. It is a “vice-like grip with which such process is paralyzing, indeed terrifying” (Tritt 116).
Undoubtedly, Michael Tritt uses a psychological strategy to critically analyze “Young Goodman Brown”. He carefully constructs his criticism through quotes from other critics and the short story. Sigmund Freud is also quoted because he theorized the projection process.
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Tritt, Michael. “‘Young Goodman Brown’ and the Psychology of Projection.” Studies in Short Fiction 23.1 (1986): 113-17.