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Maturation Of "Young Goodman Brown" Displayed Through Setting

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Nathanial Hawthorne's story "Young Goodman Brown" portrays the growth of Young Goodman Brown through vivid symbolic setting. "Young Goodman Brown" is an allegory in which the setting is very important to the theme of the story. Throughout the narration, detailed setting and emblematic characters surround Goodman Brown. Goodman Brown is an Everyman character, which could be any one of us, struggling with his Puritan heritage, more specifically his spiritual faith.

The setting is first introduced during a conversation between Goodman and his wife "Faith" which is symbolic of his struggle with his spiritual faith throughout the story. Standing in the doorway of his own home he turns to confront his wife, who encourages him to stay at home with her, the first expression in the story of his internal conflict with his "faith". Walking away from his wife, he begins to question himself in several ways. Why is he leaving? What is he longing for? Where exactly is he going? ""Poor little Faith!" Thought he, for his heart smote him. "What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand!"" (391)

Without knowing the exact answer to any of the questions he enters the woods, dark and dreary, which Hawthorne uses to express the sense of evil. To understand the significance of the setting you have to understand the background of the Puritan culture which Hawthorne doesn't state but expects the reader to know. Puritans live their lives for God. They believe everyone and everything is evil and one must live his life so to not unleash this inborn sin. Throughout the story, Goodman struggles with his own image of faith. Just as any young adult may step back and question their initial upbringing, he too, questions his forefathers. He doesn't want to become who they were, the common feeling among younger generations. Brown could be any one of us who as we mature begin to discover flaws in our families and acquaintances we knew not existed.

Continuing down his path in the woods he runs across a man "in grave and decent attire". The word "grave" suggests the danger and seriousness of the journey. Soon the author persuades us that this man represents the devil in Goodman's struggle with his beliefs. The man is willing to lead Goodman deep into the forest, or in other words, deep into sin. The man even addresses Brown telling him he is late, which may suggest that this has been an ongoing battle in Young Goodman's mind and this is his the first time he has given in to his curiosity. He is privileged to have a loving wife at home, a good Puritan upbringing, yet he still isn't content that he should just follow this role without exploring beyond the known. ""Faith kept me back a while," replied the young man, with a tremor in his voice, caused by the sudden appearance of his companion, though not wholly unexpected.""(391)

The elder man carries a staff, which "bore the likeness of a great black snake". (392) Later in the story the staff turns to a snake, which is just another supernatural occurrence in the setting representing spiritual "faith". In the Bible snakes represent evil and are often found around passages of sin. Other supernatural or biblical illustrations include blood, and the devil's speed (from Boston to Salem). The setting is extremely important to this journey Young Goodman Brown is following because each element of setting has significant meaning to the theme and mood Hawthorne creates.

Continuing to explore the many elements of his faith, he continues down the path, and encounters yet more elements of setting, which signify his discontent with the elders from his childhood. He gets a glimpse of his catechism teacher, a deacon of the church, and many other people of the congregation. Along the way the evil force, his tour guide, the older man, keeps reminding him that these people are here all the time, that all the people from his childhood come there, and that he has worked with them all. Goodman begins to get frustrated and frantic and begins to see evil in everything and everyone around him. Ultimately Brown himself is the "chief horror of the scene" created by his own doubts and internal battle. He is becoming that which he was looking to escape, just like his forefathers, a sinner.

Upon, leaving the woods, Goodman returns home to the open and loving arms of his wife. At this point he is delusional and can't depict fact or fiction. He doesn't know if he really experienced the walk in sin or if it was just a bad dream." A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man did he become from that night of that fearful dream." (399) He questions everything and everyone. Goodman can find no comfort in himself or others: he has become a member of the adult society of his community yet he cannot function in it. Brown returned home and refused to take the communion from the devil, but the result is still



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