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Young Goodman Brown Essay


Hawthorne’s story “Young Good man Brown” informs of the battle between spiritual faith and wicked temptation. In the story, this struggle is represented allegorically, which implies that in the story everyday things and people and locations are given an unique resonance with the story’s themes. The objects in the story function symbolically to inform a “story within the story” so to speak where each of the actions, symbols, and events of the story have a larger thematic meaning. By utilizing allegory, Hawthorne achieved a narrative design which is both moralistic and confessional in nature.

For example, the opening lines of the story suggest a sexual style. When Faith remarks “”An only woman is bothered with such dreams and such ideas, that she’s afeard of herself, in some cases,” and these “dreams and thoughts” are suggested to be comprehended as sensual in nature. Along with these frightening, adult ideas and her girlish pink ribbons, “Faith […] combines elements of both regret and innocence, “dark” and “reasonable” ladies,” adn for that reason stands allegorically for two type of commitment, roughly: pure and “impure,” or sexual, dedication, (Onderdonk).

Hawthorne’s familiarity with the historic background of Puritanism coupled with his individual experiences and the history of his own family blend into the actions and allegorical resonances of “Young Goodman Brown,” working both as a fight with individual (and universal) dualities, but unifying the opposites within the well-wrought type of the story itself, although the “moral” of the story is not explicit, and there is a deliberate ambiguity to the story’s climax which shows, instead of a failure to fix the various schisms visually, an embracing of uncertainty as resolution.

This approval of uncertainty is therefore a symbolic rejection of Puritan surety and dogma. Hawthorne’s interest in this history was “improved by the functions his ancestors had actually played in it. His great-grandfather John Hawthorne, for example, had been one of the judges in the notorious Salem witchcraft trials, and Hawthorne’s treatment of the intricacies of witchcraft in stories such as “Young Goodman Brown” (1835) thus combines national and familial regard,” (Reynolds 7). This autobiographical element is utilized overtly in “Young Goodman Brown” when the devil, who closely looks like Goodman himself.

Individual objects, characters, and elements of the story hence function in “dual” roles, providing, so to speak, overt and concealed info. In building a self-reliant iconography within the boundaries of a short story, Hawthorne was obliged to lean rather on the commonly accepted importance of certain objects, locations, and attributes. The story provides its symbolic association from the very beginning. The setting of the Salem Village remembers the center of the witchcraft trials, in1692, ushering in the components of a spiritual trial and a background of strong and judgmental spiritual faith.

Similarly, Goodman Brown’s spouse is named “faith,” suggesting an allegorical efficiency, where the reader is coaxed to acknowledge the components of everyday life in a more remarkable, more spiritually extensive cast. The pink ribbons of Faith’s cap offer a specific importance: when later on in the story, Hawthorne violates the preliminary conception of the “Faith” character, it is correspondingly more dramatic for his having initially provided Faith positively in symbolically explicit terms.

The pink ribbons are suggestive of sweet taste and girlishness, and they are a vital part of the plot, and as a symbol of incredible faith their color “gradually deepens into the liquid flame or blood of the baptism into sin. Tied like a label to the head of Faith, they represent the tainted innocence, the spiritual flaw of all humanity”; so, Faith is “at the same time an allegorical concept and the ways by which the concept is inverted […] Not the least frightening aspect of the story is the insinuation that Faith has made her own independent covenant with the Devil.

There is a faint suggestion that her complicity might be prior to and deeper than Brown’s,” (McCabe). Hawthorne’s combining of everyday occasions and things with profound spiritual trials extends even to the major characters of the story. The “fellow traveler” that Goodman Brown satisfies in the woods is “a similarity or part or forefather of Brown himself. This male is, of course, the Devil, who seeks to entice the still unwilling Goodman to a witch-meeting. While doing so he progressively weakens the young man’s faith in the institutions and the males whom he has actually heretofore revered,” (McCabe).

Other common things are collected for allegorical resonance. When the traveler throws his twisted staff at the feet of Goody Cloyse, this gesture “recommendations the scriptural story of Aaron [who] had tossed down his rod (personnel) prior to Pharaoh, and so had the magicians of Egypt made with theirs, and all became snakes […] Therefore, within an allegorical or typological framework, the personnel of Brown’s companion is being related to the challengers of Moses and of the God of Israel ….

It typifies deformity, evil, all that which amazes Brown […] Just as the rods (staffs) of the Egyptian magicians had ended up being snakes when tossed down prior to Pharoah,” (McCabe). In the forest setting, Hawthorne highlights the split between the logical mind and the unconscious by moving Brown far from the town towards the woods as he pursues his baser desires and impulses. The more he moves into the woods, the more he absorbs his ‘evil’ side; in result, facing his “impure” sexual and spiritual desires.

The escalation of this self-confrontation, revealed through the story’s allegorical method, is meant to pull the reader into comparable inward observation, supplying a driver for self-realization. Hawthorne’s intent is to make it hard for his readers to “withdraw from such disturbing possibilities into their own dogmatic self-assertions, as young Goodman Brown does. If successful, a character experiences a broader sense of doubt, a questioning initiated by his/her quest that can never ever be properly addressed.

Both character and reader stand on the brink of more complex secrets and sympathies than expected. Our understandings of things, of others, and of ourselves has ended up being unanchored, exposed as a personally thought of construction, a perspective that threatens all social bonds and often brings with it a combined sense of metaphysical elation and despair,” (Coale 22). In fact, even laughter itself is switched on end through Hawthorne’s allegorical lens. Laughter pertains to represent evil.

According to Coldiron, “Hawthorne uses laughter to mark his protagonists’ epiphanies and to stress points of thematic dispute … a Satan-figure, the older tourist, starts the terrible laughter … [which] buffoons Brown’s naive belief in the innocence of the townspeople, as he wonders aloud how he might face his minister after such a night’s journey into evil […] the change of Faith’s scream into a laugh of acceptance as she joins a likewise evil event in development … magnifies and personalizes Brown’s understanding of conflict.”

After Faith’s possible union with the Devil, Brown “starts the terrible laughter, as the Satan-figure first did, [which] validates not just his awareness of the opposition of great and wicked forces, however also his union with, acceptance of, and even management in the evil perspective,” (McCabe). Goodman Brown, unable to accept the dispute within himself, or within others, becomes agent of the dogmatic character, which is at last, taken in by its own bias and narrowness of apprehension.

While on his journey into the forest Goodman Brown observed both excellent and wicked individuals, and it was strange to see that “the great diminished not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the saints,” (McCabe) Brown ultimately chooses to “accept that everyone is evil, and he loses his possibility at redemption when he decides to totally separate himself from society and even from his own other half”; in this way, Hawthorne’s allegory sends out a moralistic message to private readers regarding the necessity of communal experience.

The private, pushed away and separated from neighborhood ends up being a victim to his evil propensities and worries of what evil others might be concealing. Similarly, the communal experience of “evil” as depicted in the story more isolates Goodman-Brown due to his outsider status. It is by the virtues of the individual that society is collectively able to move beyond the evil as represented in the story, (McCabe).

Such an awful result in the story does not prevent a more harmonious catharsis for the story’s author and readers. The allegorical approach, by articulating thematic concepts which challenge “cut and dried” explanations of such extensive realities as faith, morality, innocence, and the nature of great and wicked, enabled Hawthorne to explore issues of the utmost individual profundity, but to reveal them within a language and symbolic structure that anybody could comprehend.

Whether it is the discovery of “universal sin hiding behind virtue that is offered to the title character of “Young Goodman Brown” or Hawthorne’s expressed ambivalence towards his household’s past, his work demonstrates a consistent discussion with the idea that recognition (and the attendant avoidance) of evil is eventually possible” as is reconciliation through imaginative expression of the psychological and spiritual schisms that can be considered both universal and universally problematic, (Maus 76).

The service to the schism within society and within the private according to Hawthorne’s allegorical tale is the understanding of balance between the requirements and desires of the individual as balanced with those of the neighborhood or group. Evil is viewed as loyalty too much to one side or another: unfathomable of an involvement with one’s self results in the precise sort of social and spiritual crises dealt with by Goodman_Brown in the story, w whereas blind loyalty to society’s strictures and guidelines leads to a common expression of evil.

Hawthorne’s “hidden” message n the story might be that one need to first face and comprehend one’s own capability to be or to do evil prior to one can face this capability in others. In reality, one’s own evil tendencies might color and confuse one’s understandings of the world so deeply that one is alienated from their society and from themselves. It is very important to “understand thyself” as the theme of Hawthorne’s story so eloquently communicates.

By reaching through his own individual doubt, guilt, and religious uncertainty to find expression for the paradox and oppression of Puritanical dogma, Hawthorne was able to embrace obscurity, rather than stolid spiritual fervor, as an ethical and spiritual truth. By utilizing the symbolic resonances of daily objects, locations, and people in his fiction, Hawthorne had the ability to show the duality– the good and evil– in all things, and in all individuals, therefore fixing up the large division of excellent and evil as represented by the edicts of his (and America’s) Puritanical heritage.

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