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In "Young Goodman Brown" Nathaniel Hawthorne uses symbolism and irony to illustrate the theme of man, oblivious that sin is an inescapable part of human nature, attempting to escape from sin. The way in which Hawthorne uses to describe the way Goodman Brown is changed by realizing the reality of the world is superb. By using the idea of dreams to convey the point of no body in the world is perfect was I believe an excellent idea. The idea that mankind is perfectible, or perhaps that good Puritans are without imperfection, seems to dominate the world view of Hawthorne's Puritan character, Young Goodman Brown. His naive ideas are contrasted against the vision of profound betrayal in the forest to create a stark illustration of one possible "truth. " Goodman Brown's struggle between the evil temptations, the devil, and the proper church abiding life, is a struggle he does not think he can face. He reiterates his false confidence to himself repeatedly.
This characteristic of Goodman Brown is similar to the life lead by the author Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of self-doubt. Nathaniel Hawthorne was an unhappy person his entire life, never satisfied with his accomplishments. At the story's outset, Young Goodman Brown bids farewell to his young wife. The facet of Brown's life which she represents is illustrated by her name "Faith. " and in Hawthorne's visual description, .".. thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap... " (pg. 310) The very image of this woman's "pretty head" being "thrust" out into the world after Goodman Brown, as the wind, an unforgiving element of profane nature, fondles her pink ribbons, sets up the comparison between nature and the home symbolically. Nature, specifically the wind, the forest, the darkness of evening, symbolizes evil and sinfulness.
The home, namely Faith and her ribbons, symbolizes the perceived safety and surety of the Puritan community as a refuge from the sin of the rest of the world. There is certainly irony in the fact that it is the most pious church people who appear at the evil gathering in the forest. Upon entering the forest he is suspicious of every rock and tree, thinking something evil will jump out at him. When he finally does meet someone on the trail, who appears to be of evil origin, he feels confident that he can refuse any temptations.
This evil person makes several advances and Goodman refuses. This makes Goodman feel strong until they pass the old woman who Young Goodman Brown recognized when he exclaims "That old woman taught me my catechism!" (pg. 313). This act deters his confidence to a great degree. She and the deacon and minister who later pass are the very essence of goodness on Earth to Young Goodman Brown. Goodman eventually reaches his destination and sees the rest of the community there participating in satanic acts. Hearing the two men discuss the evening's meeting overwhelms Brown, "Young Goodman Brown caught hold of a tree for support, being ready to sink down on the ground, faint and over burthened with the heavy sickness of his heart. " (pg. 315).
It is at this point that he cries, "With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!" (pg. 315), meaning that he holds fast to his belief that he and his wife alone can follow God, even in the midst of sin. But when he hears the scream of his young wife, seeming to come from the very sky, and catches a pink ribbon as it falls to the ground, he is finally undone. He cries, "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. " (pg. 315) It is at this point where it seems that any faith he might of had in the community or himself is destroyed and he appears to give-up. The following morning he finds himself in the forest and wonders what happened the previous night. The question of whether or not the evil gathering actually occurred or was a dream is not given much attention by Hawthorne, he states simply, "Be it so, if you will. " (pg. 319). The previous statement simply means he believes what he remembers and trusts no-one in the village, not even his wife. Yet the effect the vision has on Brown is profound. He becomes "A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man... " (pg. 319) afterward.
Perhaps Young Goodman Brown has misunderstood the meaning of "Faith" in his simplicity, expecting to live life free of doubt. Hawthorne's character illustrates the consequences of embracing too pious of an attitude and too The lead character is happy with the locals and his faith until his trip, when he is convinced they are all evil. Upon this discovery he, in a sense, becomes evil. Whether he actually meets satin, and the community is evil or he fell asleep and tricked himself, he The author tells in the end that Goodman is distrusting after his journey, so he either did met the devil or fell asleep. The story seems to lean toward him meeting the devil in person. If Goodman had dreamt the entire trip the author would have probably described his anxiety with more detail in the beginning.
This would have allowed the reader to believe that events were not real. When Goodman comes back he thinks he is better than the rest and judges everyone instantly. He then comes to the conclusion that he is the only person that is not a devil worshiper. Just as before with the witch trials, he is judging them as the so-called witches were judged by his ancestors. Goodman felt The views and beliefs of the people of that era were if anything to an extreme. Whatever they believed they worshipped with a vengeance.
This extreme faith can be compared to the current time "Career Goal. " If the people of today can not pursue a career and succeed, they feel as if their life has no meaning. This most likely has its roots from the Protestant work ethic. The ethic, in general, says that you must work hard to please God and compete for a place in heaven. This story is about such people. The modern day person has taken this work ethic and given it a greedy twist. People of today fight for position, status or power just as much as the pioneer puritans worshipped and studied the bible.
The puritans would take the word of bible as the word, without interpretation, only translation by the minister of the community. Although these career driven people do not have a book to guide their path, they pursue it none the less. Some of these people have lost, or never had the belief, of reaching heaven, or even its existence. These people are the peers of the believers and set the rules or guidelines for career goals. So in effect the status in the community is a way of saying they are better.
The people who do not believe in any god-like being fight in an effort to make their mark on the world, for this is the only they can be recognized or remembered. The story about Young Goodman Brown centers around the allegory of a man pitted against his past and his desires to reach beyond that which his benighted heaven would put before him. The allegory is Christian due to the references in Young Goodman Brown to the devil and Satan; it only seems logical that the crux of the story is based upon the religious imagery of Hawthorne's New England in the times of Salem and active religious strife. The beginning of the story mentions the goodman's wife, Faith.
The names of the characters alone serve as an indication of what Hawthorne puts as an obvious religious allegory with the goodman and faith soon to be pitted against an unspeakable evil. The goodman even swears that after this night he will "cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven. " (pg 311) The devil awaits Young Goodman Brown as he states that the clock of the old south was striking as I came through Boston, and that is a full fifteen minutes agone. (pg 311) but a few minutes past (Hawthorne is stating how quickly the devil can move -- intensifying the airs of the preternatural). Young Goodman Brown replies to the devil that faith was keeping him away -- Hawthorne's play on words should not be overlooked as this also leads to the realization that a man (a good one) can deal with the Hawthorne makes a full recognition of the Puritans begin a perfect society. However with all of the perfections in the lives of the Puritans, most, if not all of the people in the community seemed to hide something.
It just goes to show someone that not all people are who they seem to be, that some people are aligned with the devil, and some with God, no matter what the sin. Bibliography:
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