Young Goodman Brown
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s shorty story “Young Goodman Brown” portrays the role of society on individual’s sense of identity and belongings. The story focuses on the life of Young Goodman Brown who grows up with the pious outlook of life depicting the profound impact of social norms. The young man encounters struggle between the society and himself. His thinking exhibits the preconditioned beliefs of the society as he fails to deal with the Puritan life. The social constructs plays dominant role in defining him that later results in his incapability to know his place in the society. He struggles to explore his reality and identity. The hardships due to social constructs makes him prisoner of the society and fate. His entrapment in taunting thoughts results in his confusion motivating him to question his reality.
Struggle of cultural fate is visible in Hawthorne’s fiction, encountered by Young Goodman when his mind is exposed to unholy acts. The bitterness of the society becomes prominent in the story, “with a resigned contentment at his place in the world or with an irreconcilable bitterness at his powerlessness” (Hawthorne 548). The struggles of the young man appear between him and the world. In the forest he experiences the darker realities of the constrained society that limits him to make a free choice. After learning potential evils prevailing in the society he questions his upbringing and role of the society. Through construction of the Goodman’s character the author tries to display the contradicting realities of the world. the journey of enchanted forest outside the town allows the young man to explore evilness. The journey results in his self-destruction as he surrenders his faith. The Calvinist sense of sin conveys the moral idea of imagination emphasizing on the factors weakening faith (Keil).
Symbolism and allegory created by Hawthorne in the story reveals the weaker role of faith. The story ripens with age that intrigues the modern thinker to question the reality of the society. The story reveals the aspects of morality, philosophy and psychology. The author allows assessment of the character through historical context and religious symbolism. Hawthorne conveys the message of human conditions that leads to contradicting choices. The young man’s drive towards sin displays the weaker role of social constructs. Symbolic inference in the settings uncovers the issues of community that the author represents in Salem’s madness. The Salem forest portrays the state of religious oppression allowing individuals to escape social realities. The Puritan’s belief in witches is apparent in the concept of witchcraft visible in the story. The forest represents evil, “the forest, as a place of wild, untamed passions and terrors, has the attributes of the Freudian id” (Hawthorne 139). The author through the story also criticizes the Calvinist doctrine that sets limitations on the roles of individuals (Ezghoul and Zuraikat).
The struggles between faith and man’s fate depicts the desires to escape social constraint. The decision of young man to take journey to the Salem forest is the result of his conflicting thoughts. He is unable to accept the moral philosophy and the values taught by society. His rejection of the social norms motivates him to leave the town and meet contradicting realities of the world. The conflict is visible, “[Brown] is a naive and immature young man who fails to understand the gravity of the step he has taken succeeded by a presumably adult determination to resist his own evil impulses” (Hawthorne 117). His failure to recognize the adversities of his actions reveals the negative role of social constructs (Keil).
Conflict remains one of the visible element in the development of plot. The author represents the conflicting situations encountered by youth apparent in the notions of devil, old woman and faith. Brown’s consciousness becomes prominent when he views the magic serpent. The conflict is visible in, “come, Goodman Brown’ cried his fellow-traveler, [the devil] ‘this is a dull pace for the beginning of the journey. Take my staff, if you are so soon weary” (Hawthorne 120). The fear becomes more prominent in his hesitation to accept devil’s choice. The witness of the old woman increases the intensity of fear in the young man. Hawthorne through creation of the story tests the faith of youth. The faith in the forest deepens in disillusionment apparent in the delirious state of Goodman. The weakened state of faith is visible in the comment, “there is no good in earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given” (Hawthorne 137). The moment exhibits the impatience as Goodman is unable to see any hope. He doubts goodness and the piety of the world. The author confers the idea that elimination of faith results in vague thoughts, convincing young people to reject their reliance on religious values (Ezghoul and Zuraikat).
Hawthorne in the story uses satire to criticize the puritanism and system of belief. Distrust and doubts are prominent elements in defining the journey of the young man. Satire is more prominent in the fictional character of Brown who fails to act according to the social norms. His inability to accept society’s morality results in his weakened faith. His determination to purify himself results in his self-destruction. The struggles between social values and search of self-identity displays the negative role of social constructs. Through portrayal of conflict the fiction conveys the deeper realities of society.
Ezghoul, Naim and Malek Zuraikat. “with a resigned contentment at his place in the world or with an irreconcilable bitterness at his powerlessness”.” International Journal of English and Literature 1.1 (2010): 1-6.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. Mosses from an Old Manse, 1835.
Keil, James C. “Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’: Early Nineteenth-Century and Puritan Constructions of Gender.” The New England Quarterly 69.1 (1996): 33-55