9 September 2010
Meditation on “Young Goodman Brown”
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is known as one of the most famous Halloween stories in America. The story can be read in many ways, but the psychological approach reveals the complexity of human nature. The story is in essence dark and bizarre in setting; but when reading the story carefully something much more mysterious is uncovered—an uncertain destiny. History shows that there has always been conflict within one’s own religious belief system; and “Young Goodman Brown” is an example of religious internal conflict. It is a gothic tale that tells the story of a young man who is perplexed about his own spirituality, but is afraid to admit his own ambivalence. He is torn between good and evil, and is somehow compelled to explore the unthinkable. Because there is no say in what motivates him to take this dark journey, one could only assume that his motivation is simply human nature. The Biblical allusions are evident throughout the short story—and the Holy Bible illustrates ambiguity in the case of the fall of man in Genesis. Like Goodman Brown, Adam and Eve are driven by their human instincts—which lets us know that curiosity existed long before Hawthorne’s obscure character.
“Young Goodman Brown” takes place in the time of Puritan colonization during the 17th century. The Puritans were very austere people who believed that Christian religion was the only way of life. They even held themselves higher than those who did not profess the same religion, and were very arrogant in their demeanor. This is the culture of Young Goodman Brown. The irony is that Goodman Brown is professing his faith while taking this evil journey. Every instant he is looking back in desperation wanting to return to his wife Faith, but keeps on the path perhaps out of a need to feed his curiosity. Maybe he doubts his faith. Maybe, like many of his fellow believers he surpasses on this journey, wants to partake in evil. Nevertheless, Goodman Brown gives into temptation to find that he is not the only one. Goodman Brown’s alleged father is accused of being good friends with the cunning enemy;
... Goodman Brown Nathaniel Hawthornes short stories The Ministers Black Veil and Young Goodman Brown are two stories that are thick with allegory. Young Goodman Brown is a moral story ... guilt arrives from an act of sin. Young Goodman Brown begins when Faith, Browns wife, asks him not to go out ... the rest of their lives. Goodman Brown was supposed to learn that everyone is human and should be treated with ...
I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem; and it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philip’s war. They were my good friends, both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily after midnight. (Hawthorne 397)
The irony demonstrated in the passage uncovers the arrogance of the Puritans. Many of the Puritans in the story appear to be good saints, but when the tempter reveals their hearts, Brown is shocked—even though his curiosity also leads to his demise.
Goodman Brown represents many people throughout history, and those who are raised in religious cultures. The toiling within him represents an internal journey with evil. Curiosity and the need for justification always take people out of their way of righteousness according to the Holy Bible. In the third chapter of Genesis, Eve demonstrates human curiosity and the consequences from exploring it.
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Holy Bible, New International Version)
Young Goodman Brown "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne contains much symbolism. The symbols take many forms from the setting to the characters. The symbols can be viewed as just part of the story line, but upon further thought they represent many different things. Faith, Brown's wife, is a symbol herself. When he says, "My love and my Faith," he is using his wife as a symbol and is ...
Genesis later explains that Eve’s curiosity is the temptation that leads to the fall of man. Even though she is tempted, her own free will impels her to discover what the great knowledge of God contains. It is human nature to want to know the mysteries of the world.
There is a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that states, “We know accurately only when we know little, with knowledge doubt increases.” Goodman Brown represents the same curiosity and doubt that every human possesses. There is a need for people to know as much as they possibly can—even the things that are unexplainable. Is this an instinct given to us by God, or is this the great tempter tempting us to go against God’s will? Either way, at the end of Goodman Brown’s journey he is not happy with the outcome. He only feels lost, and eventually loses his faith. He is now desperate and hopeless. If this journey makes Goodman Brown a faithless man then maybe one could consider that he has always doubted his faith.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” Guerin, Wilfred L. and others. Eds. A
Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. 6th ed. New York: Oxford UP. 397. Print
Genesis. New International Version. Biblegateway.com. Web. 8 Sept. 2010.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang Von. Brainyqoute.com. Brainy media, 2008. Web. 8 Sept. 2010.