"Young Goodman Brown" is a story by the American novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne that was initially published in 1835. The story is set in the New Puritan England during the 17th century, and through it the author attempts to expose the hypocrisy and wickedness of the Puritans. The story is about a young innocent man, Goodman Brown from the Puritan society, who loses his faith in humanity, including his wife, Faith, following his meeting with the devil in the forest, where he discovers the evilness of humans. It is worth mentioning that prior to his visit, he had a good perception of the society; in fact, she viewed his wife as an angel. This is evidenced when the author says, “Well, she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven” (272). However, following his discovery that several people, including his wife, religious leaders etc., whom he held with high regard, have been attending a Black Mass in the forest, his faith is crushed. He is unable to accept the fact that his loved ones are evil and, consequently, chooses to live the rest of his life alone, suspicious of everyone around him. This paper focuses on the theme of duplicity in this novel.
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The theme of duplicity is evident throughout the novel i.e. nothing is actually as it appears. For instance, the old man in the story, who seems harmless, is a devil, while the catechism teacher paints a picture of holiness on the outside, but participates secretly in evil rituals. In addition, Brown thinks of his wife as an angel, which indicates her goodness to her husband, but secretly, she attends the Black Mass. It is important to say that nearly all the characters in the novel are two-faced; even the objects have two different natures. For example, the staff of the man that Brown meets is both a snake and a staff. The staff’s dual nature is seen when it “wriggles itself like a living serpent” (300). Duplicity plays a key role in the development of the overall story, as the dual attributes of objects, and people serve as a set of metaphors, which add more meaning to the story.
To conclude, ‘‘Young Goodman Brown’’ is a very compelling story that Hawthorne uses to bring to light the evilness and pretense of the Puritans. Duplicity is a key theme that is evident throughout the story as discussed in the body of this paper. In general, this book is a great read that I would not hesitate to recommend to all literature lovers.
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