The story Young Goodman Brown is a gripping portrayal of the Puritan society in the seventeenth century. Hawthorne addresses the Puritan belief regarding the existence of humanity in a state of depravity, exempting those individuals born in a gracious state. The author attempts to uncover hypocrisy of the Puritan culture throughout his literature. Young Goodman Brown embarks on a journey of a newly married man into self-scrutiny that leads to the loss of his faith. This paper seeks to analyze Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown based on the story’s setting, plot, characters, writing style, and mood.
Young Goodman Brown is a story that belongs to American Gothic literature because of a number of characteristics that it possesses. Among the characteristics is the sense of evil, horror, and dualism. The feel of sin is evident in the story as Goodman Brown leaves his wife and explores the dark side of Puritan town. At the destination, Goodman Brown realizes that the evil spirit have possessed most elders and that innocence and holiness no longer exist in Puritan town, which used to be a holy town. Goodman Brown experiences a conflict between remaining holy and being captured by the evil spirit like his elders. Therefore, dualism is also evident because of the conflict that Goodman Brown experiences. Young Goodman Brown depicts horror as Goodman Brown fears the wilderness as a place of pure evil.
The plot of Young Goodman Brown features various themes, symbols, and motifs. The main themes of Young Goodman Brown include weakness of public morality, loss of holiness and innocence, and fear of the wilderness. Weakness of public morality is obvious when Goodman Brown decides to possess evil spirit after discovering that his elders and wife possess it. Goodman Brown loses his holiness and innocence by resolving to visit the forest to meet the devil. However, he fears that the forest will be a place that merely haunts people. Female purity is one of the leading motifs of Young Goodman Brown as Goodman Brown believes that his wife will connect him to God. The staff and pink ribbons are the most vivid symbols in Hawthorne’s story. Hawthorne uses a staff to depict a demon. This staff has the shape of a serpent like the one in Garden of Eden. Pink ribbons represent Faith’s purity because the pink color has a close association with gaiety and innocence.
Goodman Brown is the protagonist of Young Goodman Brown, who embodies innocence as he believes in the goodness of his wife and elders. He also represents corruptibility because of his belief that his wife and elders have possessed the evil spirit. For instance, he believes in the righteousness of Goody, who turns out to be a witch. Therefore, Hawthorne describes Goody as the villain of the story. Hawthorne uses the devil as a character representing menace. The devil induced Brown’s grandfather and father to whip Quakers and set the Indian villages ablaze. The protagonist of the story also shows degeneracy because he loses innocence, thereby possessing the evil spirit.
The author uses foreshadowing, dark language, and omens throughout the story. The encounter of Goodman Brown with the devil in the forest is an example of dark language use. Foreshadowing is evident as a human figure confronts Goodman Brown in the forest after he thinks that he is going to encounter a devil. Faith predicts Goodman Brown’s trouble in the forest through dreams. Therefore, the author uses the thoughts and dreams of Faith as omens.
Young Goodman Brown fits the Gothic label because the author maintains the horrific feel in the story. The author constructs the sense of horror by focusing on the conflict that Goodman Brown is experiencing. Goodman Brown walks toward the devil in the forest, but wants to turn back.