Puritain Society in "Young Goodman Brown"

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Puritain Society in "Young Goodman Brown"

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in the year 1804 and died in the year 1864. He was an American Novelist and his work dealt with the ethical problems of sin, punishment, and atonement. Many of his stories are Puritan based and originated in New England. He is most famous for writing the novel, The Scarlet Letter. In Michael McCabe’s essay, he explains that Hawthorne could not escape the influence of Puritan society, not only from residing with his father’s devout Puritan family as a child but, also due to Hawthorne’s study of his own family history. (1) Hawthorne’s writings dealt with the religious beliefs he held as well as he questioned. When he wrote “Young Goodman Brown” he was struggling with the religious beliefs of his ancestors. The time that the story took place was in the 1960’s, when his grandfather was presiding over the Salem Witch Trials (Vanspanckeren 2).

In “Young Goodman Brown”, both Brown and the reader are given choices as to what is happening, did he fall asleep in the forest and did he dream about the witch or did it really happen, the choice is dream or reality? There are some images and symbols that are used throughout the story. One of them is the pink ribbons that are found in Faith’s Cap. They are a link between two beliefs of Faith, they connect her to the woman who stands at the devil’s baptismal font and the pink suggests that she is this innocent woman. The name “Young Goodman Brown” symbolizes different aspects of the story. “Young” means that the character is naïve and new at life. “Goodman” suggests that he is self-righteous by thinking that he is a good man. “Brown” indicates that he is a commoner. The full name means that he is an average naïve self-righteous Puritan.

The story Young Goodman Brown is about a man and his faith in himself, his wife, and the community they live in. He must go on a journey into the local forest, refuse temptations of the devil, and return to the village before sunrise. He struggles between the evil temptations, the devil and the Puritan life he lives. He constantly reiterates his false confidence to himself repeatedly. This is similar to what Hawthorne would do. He was very unhappy with his life and was never satisfied with his accomplishments. When Brown enters the forest he is skeptical of every rock and tree because he feels that some evil will jump out at him. He finally meets up with an evil person and he feels very confident that he can refuse any temptation. He eventually reaches his destination and he sees the rest of the community there participating in satanic acts, when he sees this it destroys all of his faith. The following morning he finds himself in the forest and wonders what happened the previous night. He is not sure whether what he saw was real or his imagination. Ever since then, he believes what he remembers about what happened in the forest and he doesn’t trust anyone in the village, not even his wife. He lives the rest of his life as a miserable and distrusting man.

Works Cited

McCabe, Michael. The Consequences of Puritans Depravity and Distrust as

Historical Context for Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”. 27 July. 2002. Florida

Golf Coast University. 5 Oct. 2002 http://www.itech.fgcy.edu

Van Spanckeren, Kathryn. An Outline of American Literature. 19 Sept. 1999.

The American Revolution. 5 Oct. 2002. http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/hawthorne.htm

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