Young Goodman Brown

Young Goodman Brown

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In the story "Young Goodman Brown", Nathaniel Hawthorne uses a dream to illustrate a young man’s loss of innocence, understanding of religion and his community. Through this dream, the main character Young Goodman realizes that the people that he surrounds himself with are not who he believes them to be. The story of “Young Goodman Brown” focuses on the unconscious mind. The characters in this short-story are able to represent the struggle of Young Goodman’s superego, ego, and id.
Representing the superego is Young Goodman’s wife Faith. Her name becomes a multi-layered metaphor. Hawthorne writes, "And Faith, as the wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons on her caps while she called to Goodman Brown" (Kelly, 190). This statement suggests that Brown's wife’s name is symbolic. Faith is condensed to represent innocence, the Puritan religion and Brown’s consciousness. Since, young girls are often equated with pink. The pink ribbons in her hair serve to symbolize her innocence. When Brown meets the man in the woods he says, "Faith kept me back awhile" (Kelly, 191). In this case Faith represents the Puritan religion.
The next character is Young Goodman Brown himself. His name also becomes a multilayered metaphor. Being known as “young” represents Goodman Browns innocence and virtue. He is also condensed to represent his own consciousness. But, by leaving his wife, Faith, Young Goodman Brown is giving into the unconscious. "He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind" (Kelly, 191). Taking this path that closes behind him represents Young Goodman’s decent into the unconscious and his loss of innocence. On this journey he soon meets a man who is a condensation of several different factors. The man represents the devil, as well as Brown unconscious mind.
The next character is the man who Brown meets up with in the woods. This man is described as, "one who knew the world, and who would not have felt abashed at the governor's dinner table or in King William's court" (Kelly, 191). This man can be seen as the devil. He possesses features that illustrate him as the devil. For example his walking staff is described as having "the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent" (Kelly, 191-192).

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Being snake-like implies a connection with the devil, as well as characteristics such as being evil and untrustworthy. He also represents Goodman Brown’s id. The devil allows Goodman Brown to follow his desires and leave his wife and religion.
Brown’s forefathers are displaced with the devil as well. Brown begins the journey believing that his forefathers are innocent, good men, but the devil tells Brown that he has been, "…well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that’s no trifle to say" (Kelly, 192). Brown's forefathers become equated with the devil. The people of the town are also displaced as the devil. The devil tells Brown, "I have a very general acquaintance here in New England. The deacons of many a church have drunk the communion wince with me; the selectmen of divers towns make me their chairman; and a majority of the Great and General Court are firm supporters of my interest, The governor and I, too----But these are state secrets" (Kelly, 192-93). A specific person in the town that is displaced with the devil and Brown’s loss of innocence is Goody Cloyse. When Goody Cloyse is approached by the devil she accepts him, showing that she is well acquainted with him. When Goodman Brown witnesses this interaction between the devil and Goody Cloyse he says, “That old woman taught me my catechism” (Kelly 195). Brown’s catechism is brought up to represent his childhood and contrast with this loss of innocence. Brown learns that the minister and Deacon Gookin are also heading to the meeting with the devil. Brown learns that they too represent evil.
"But something fluttered lightly down through the air and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon" (Kelly, 197). The pink ribbon falling from the sky represents Brown's realization that he is losing his innocence. Brown then cries, "My Faith is gone" (Kelly, 197). This word-play on the name Faith represents Brown’s realization that he is losing both his wife and his religion. At the end of the short-story the question is brought up as to whether the events of the night were a dream or reality. “Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest, and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting” (Kelly, 202). Hawthorne then answers his own question. “Be it so if you will; but, alas! It was a dream of evil omen for young Goodman Brown” (Kelly, 202). This realization that Goodman was only having a dream represents Goodman’s repression. The only way in which he can admit his desire to leave his wife, and religion is through a dream.
The symbolism throughout "Young Goodman Brown" represents many of Sigmund Freud’s ideas about the unconscious. Key concepts such as repression, displacement and condensation are apparent through the events that occur in the short-story. While the superego, ego, and id are represented through the characters and the Goodman Brown’s psyche.

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