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Young Goodman Brown

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Young Goodman Brown

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is a dark story written in the form of an allegory. In the story, Brown believed his community was true in their devotion to God. Additionally, Brown believed he had a strong Puritan faith. However, the journey we were taken on, through the dark gloomy woods of Salem, in time, showed the reader that Brown was not as strong in his faith as he thought himself to be. Moreover, the respectable people of the town were not who Brown assumed them to be. Brown was confronted with temptation, in which he would have several chances to turn back, but his curiosity eventually got the best of him. “Young Goodman Brown” is a story representing people being confronted with everyday temptations. Nathaniel Hawthorne used setting, internal conflict and symbolism to describe the struggle between Brown’s feeling of uncertainty and the evil trying to pull him in.

Depending on how the story is viewed, two settings could be considered. The first setting would be Brown’s house and the second setting would be the forest. The first setting took place in 1692, around the time of the Salem Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts, at the home of Young Goodman Brown. The setting at the home of Brown does not have much of a description. The only thing described was the threshold where Brown tilted his head back to kiss his wife goodbye. The scene at Brown’s home could be viewed at as symbolizing his uncertainties about surrendering to the devil’s evil customs. In spite of Browns indecisive conscious to take the journey or not, Brown submitted to his impulse to follow an evil path and embarked on his journey into the woods.

The path into the woods, where the second setting takes place, is described as being, “darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the path creep through, and closed immediately behind” (Hawthorne 265). The description of the woods could be looked at as embodying the tension between the virtuous and wickedness of human nature. The pathway Brown was traveling was that of a dark, long and narrow trail through the woods. The narrowness and darkness symbolize the evil that encircled the forest and awaited the arrival of Brown.

“Young Goodman Brown” can be interpreted in numerous ways. For instance, during Hawthorne’s time, “good men” were individuals who came from “proper” families with good morals. Brown represented the typical figure of “good men,” but he may have decided to rebel against customary beliefs. This is why Brown felt the need to embark into a forbidden area, which has not yet been explored and nothing is known, so that he may discover the world and its ideas for himself. Brown’s inquisitiveness could have set off a trigger in him to seek out knowledge and undertake “tremendous” challenges. A few examples of the challenges Brown faced included the following: the courage to enter the woods, coming face to face with the devil and the temptation the devil directs his way. Brown was left to contemplate whether the devil was telling him the truth about his father, grandfather, and community. Moreover, could this have been a ploy to draw Brown even further into the forest by making him think that even good people fall to temptation.

When Brown realized he had gone too far into the woods, he told the devil, “My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and good Christians, since the days of the martyrs" (Hawthorne 266). Hawthorne made use of this knowledge, to show the reader how Brown’s ancestry contributed to the fundamental role in Brown’s opinion of his good character. Brown’s opinion was swiftly challenged by the devil when he testified that Brown’s grandfather was with him as they lashed the Quaker woman all through the streets of Salem.

The devil also informed Brown it was he who brought Brown’s father a pitch-pine knot to set ablaze Indian villages. Goodman refused to accept that his relatives could do such sinful things. Hawthorne brought into question the virtuous basis of Brown’s family, as well as the social perspective of what was highly regarded. Brown replied to the devil by saying, “I marvel they never spoke of these matters. We are a people of prayer and good works, to boot, and abide no such wickedness” (Hawthorne 266). Brown telling the devil that he “marveled” at the statement about his father and Grandfather could illustrate the doubts Brown had in his “faith.”

The experiences that Brown faced prompt an inner conflict between good and evil. Upon entering the woods, Brown was wary of every tree and shadow, believing something wicked would leap out at him. When Brown, at last, meets the mysterious man on the path, the person looks as if they are an origin of evil. The evil being makes numerous proposals, but Brown refuses. Brown believed himself to be confident enough that he could refuse to give in to any persuasion the devil may toss his way.

Symbolism is immense throughout “Young Goodman Brown.” Brown’s name alone can be looked at as having numerous meanings.

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