Young Goodman Brown

Young Goodman Brown

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The Hero’s Journey of Young Goodman Brown
Young Goodman Brown undergoes the hero’s journey in the story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The hero’s journey is a common guideline of events that many writers use in stories to show the physical, mental, and/or emotional transformation the main character or protagonist undergoes throughout the story. It starts with a call to adventure and a supernatural aid. It is then followed by a road of trials and a symbolic death. In the end, the character has a moment of epiphany or realization and then a return. Hawthorne uses all of these in order to show the loss of innocence in Young Goodman Brown as he experiences the hero’s journey.
Young Goodman Brown is about a young, newly wedded man who leaves his wife, Faith, and to go on a journey into the forest one night. Young Goodman Brown has an innocent and maybe even naïve soul and was looked upon by townspeople as a “silly fellow” (Hawthorne 83). He is accompanied by a mysterious, older man who is later on revealed to be the devil. As they are walking, Young Goodman Brown tries to turn back several times and at one point succeeds in getting rid of the devil. However, when he sees that even his wife has surrendered to the same evil path that he was on, he stops resisting and continues into the forest. He ends up at a witches’ sabbath where he sees familiar faces of people whom he previously looked up to for spiritual guidance; he also finds Faith there and becomes devastated. In the end, he cries out to resist the devil and then wakes up to find himself alone in the forest.
The call to adventure is when Young Goodman Brown decides to go out that night into the forest. It is not clear to what exactly the motivation for it is except for that it is for an “evil purpose” (81). It could be assumed though that Young Goodman Brown had doubts in his faith in God and was curious about this mysterious event that was taking place that night. It also seemed like Young Goodman Brown had been thinking about it for awhile and had set his mind to this night because it seemed like he had an appointment with the other traveler when he was told that he was fifteen minutes late.
The other traveler is the supernatural aid component of the hero’s journey.

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He is described to be about fifty years old and resembling to Young Goodman Brown. The traveler walks and guides Young Goodman Brown into the forest constantly urges him to continue walking. Later, it is revealed that the traveler is the devil disguised as the Young Goodman Brown’s grandfather in order to gain Young Goodman Brown’s trust. He carries around a snake-like staff which also alludes to the snake, which was the devil in disguise, that persuades Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The devil’s super naturalness is also shown when he breaks off a branch of a tree to make a new walking stick and the moment his fingers touched the twigs, they strangely “withered and dried up as with a week’s sunshine” (84). This walking stick becomes a symbol of succumbing to evil as it is offered insistingly to Young Goodman Brown by the devil several times in the story.
Young Goodman Brown has three trials leading up to the climatic symbolic death. His trials have to do with the constant internal struggle between wanting to go further into the forest and wanting to go back home. Young Goodman Brown’s first test occurs in the beginning of his journey into the forest. The devil offers Young Goodman Brown his walking stick because he is slowing his pace down. Young Goodman Brown refuses the staff and does not wish to continue further in and tries to resist the devils urges for him to continue. Young Goodman Brown tells the devil that his father never went into the woods, and neither had his grandfather, and he did not want to be the first of his family to do so. However, the devil tells Young Goodman Brown that they actually have taken that path together many times before and that he has even helped them commit evil crimes that Young Goodman Brown did not know about. Without even realizing he had done so, Young Goodman Brown continued to walk into the forest.
The second test occurs after Young Goodman Brown and the Devil run into Goody Cloyse, an old woman who had taught Young Goodman Brown his catechism when he was younger; she was a woman he looked up to her for spiritual and moral guidance up to that day. Young Goodman Brown was completely distraught seeing her in the forest. However, even though he saw that woman, whom he thought to be pious, give into evil, he remembered he still had his wife, Faith, a symbol of innocence back at home, and he did not want to leave her. He stopped once again and refused to go any further. The devil offered his staff to him once again but this time just threw it down in from of Young Goodman Brown and left.
Just when Young Goodman Brown thought that he had finally gotten rid of the devil a third test occurs. He hears the voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin nearby and realizes that they too are on their way into the forest for the evil meeting. In the beginning of the story, Young Goodman Brown was worried about how he would ever be able to show his face and confront the minister of their village after taking this sinful journey into the forest. But now that Young Goodman Brown sees more people of the town who were known for their spiritual strength and holiness committing the same sinful act, he starts to have doubts in God and his puritan religion again:
Young Goodman Brown caught hold of a tree for support, being ready to sink down on the ground, faint and overburdened with the heavy sickness of his heart. He looked up to the sky, doubting whether there really was a heaven above him. Yet there was the blue arch, and the stars brightening in it. ‘With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!’ (85).
The realization that everyone whom Young Goodman Brown once trusted and looked up to for moral guidance was no better than he was, was a great burden on him. He felt sick in his heart to find out this truth. But he looked up in the sky wondering God truly existed and expected nothing but saw the stars lit up and his faith was reassured again.
The next step in the hero’s journey is the symbolic death of the main character. At this point in the story, Young Goodman Brown, although emotionally drained, was ready to go back to his home and loving wife, Faith, until he heard a bunch of voices from the forest. Among these voices, he heard a voice of a young woman “uttering lamentations, yet with an uncertain sorrow, and entreating for some favor, which, perhaps, it would grieve her to obtain; and all the unseen multitude, both saints and sinners, seemed to encourage her onward” (85). Young Goodman Brown knew that it was his precious Faith and cried after her in desperation. He tried to run after her but could not see where she was but found a pink ribbon, like the ones Faith wears, on the branch of a tree. Faith was an important character in this story. Hawthorne used her as an allegory, which is an abstract idea embodied in an object or person, of innocence Young Goodman Brown’s Faith in God and his puritan religion. Faith was not only his wife but a representation of all that was good in the world. She was pure and innocent like Young Goodman Brown was. When he lost his wife Faith literally, he also lost all faith in God and heaven at that moment which marked his symbolic death.
Young Goodman Brown then gives into temptation and rages deeper into the forest and finally arrives at the evil meeting place where the climatic moment of realization and apotheosis occurs. There were blazing fires and a grand pulpit in the middle of it all surrounded by a mass crowd of townspeople whom he once venerated. He searches for Faith and is finally reunited with her on top of the pulpit where as he looked around at all the evil that was before him had a moment of realization and yelled out complete resistance to it all:
The husband cast one look at his pale wife, and Faith at him. What polluted wretches would the next glance show them to each other, shuddering alike at what they disclosed and what they saw! ‘Faith! Faith!’ cried the husband, ‘look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one’ (89).
After Young Goodman Brown’s symbolic death, he was about to give up his faith in God and his puritan religion. He was frustrated and devastated about losing all hope in the goodness of people. However, when he saw all the evil that surrounded him, he realized that he did not have to be apart of it all. Just because everyone else gave into sin, it did not mean that he had to also. He still chose to believe that there was a God looking over him and a heaven that was destined for him.
Young Goodman Brown later finds himself in the forest completely by himself, not knowing if it was all a dream or not, marking his return. Whether it was real or not does not matter because Young Goodman Brown would never be the same man innocent, pure, and naïve man he once was. He can not look at others the same way. He might not have lost his faith in God, but he definitely lost his faith in the goodness and innocence of people. Everyday, Young Goodman Brown saw the minister giving his sermon at the pulpit, Deacon Gookin praying through the open window, and Goody Cloyse catechizing another little girl. And everyday he was reminded of that sinful night. He would sometimes even wake up in the middle of the night, laying next to Faith, still not knowing if she was able to resist the devil as he had been able to.
The hero’s journey consists of many steps. It includes a call to adventure, the help of a supernatural aid, trials or tests, a symbolic death, and then an apotheosis and return. The hero’s journey helps show the change of the main character or protagonist may it be a physical, mental, or emotional one. Nathaniel Hawthorne shows the loss of innocence of Young Goodman Brown as he experiences the hero’s journey. In the beginning, Young Goodman Brown was a simple, pure-minded man, but after undergoing tests and trials, he realizes the world is not what he thought it was, and the people he knew are not the people he thought they were.
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