Young Goodman Brown


Young Goodman Brown Essay, Research Paper

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In short stories, I have learned that there is much more than what at

first meets the eye. Almost everything in the story has meaning. All I

have to do is try to find the hints and clues the writer drops and

manage to put them all together. I have to concentrate more than I ever

have so that I can interpret the authors meaning and what he or she

might really be trying to convey in the writing. In “Young Goodman

Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, I determined that through diverse

symbolism, Hawthorne writes of a man who in his coming of age learns

that there is a darkness in everyone and upon this coming of knowledge,

he is forever changed.

From the start, Hawthorne describes Goodman Brown as a good Puritan who

is devoted to his wife ^?Faith,’ whose name he uses like a shield for his

soul. At the beginning of his walk through the woods, Brown runs into

the Devil who tries to convert him; this is shown by the Devil’s

offering of the staff to Brown. The Devil goes on to say that Brown’s

family has had dealings with evil in the past; examples used are the

Salem witch trials and the killing of Indian non-combatants. This may

be Hawthornes way of dealing with guilt he might have felt over his own

forbears’ actions during those times. Brown goes on to say that he

could not bear the shame of betraying his faith while the Devil is

naming people known and respected by Brown to try to show him that it

wouldn’t really be that bad if Brown joined the witches’ coven. When

Goody Cloyse is encountered, Brown learns how she truly feels about him;

also, Goody Cloyse freely takes up the Devil’s staff. Proud of himself

for denying the Devil, while again using his wife’s name to strengthen

his resolve, Brown discovers that his respected Minister, Deacon Gookin,

and even the Indians are all servants of the Devil. When Brown learns

that his wife has given into the temptation of the Devil, the Christian

belief he is struggling to keep is shaken from him. “My Faith is gone!”

“There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil! for to

thee is this world given.” This shows that the most important thing in

Christianity, his faith, is lost. Throughout the night, Brown finds out

more than he ever wanted to know about how his fellow Puritan townsmen

have betrayed their faith by giving in to their darker desires, he even

feels his father urging him onward to do the same. All that he learns

in the night is too much for him, and it changes a devoted husband with

bright hopes and a wife whom he loves to a tired, beaten, questioning

and almost faithless man.

Hawthorne uses symbolism to write a story that is open and ambiguous to

interpretation. For myself, I believe it is about Hawthorne himself who

is growing up in a time when many Puritan children are leaving the

Puritan faith. There are many times in the story when he is questioning

his faith by listing the examples of religeous infractions by his

peers. For all this, it is a wonder Hawthorn was not eaten by the

despair and guilt he lets Goodman Brown feel.

Steve Nix

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