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Young Goodman Brown

An outstanding short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Young Goodman Brown, reveals the distorted human mind, the nature of the mankind itself and the way people accept understanding their immorality. The interpretation of the intent of this masterpiece of American literature has always been challenging. The reaction to the story is strongly ambivalent, and it arouses opposed feelings.

The qualities of Goodman Brown represent any person, especially those who lived in those Puritan Christian times. His journey is an allegory of a quest for faith faced by every individual. He concludes that the significance and power of faith are enormous. However, he simultaneously realizes the scope of hypocrisy and evil. Being devastated and shattered, Goodman Brown is unable to cope with the availability of evil in everybody he knows. He is cut off his fellow men to become depressed and lonely. His fears are projected onto people who surround him but he does not acknowledge his own faults and gets isolated.

The discovery of a dual nature of every person by the character strikes with its importance. It can be shocking how a virtuous, religious and decent person changes when the night comes. Goodman Brown sees evil as a personal internal and public trait. He even discovers that he is evil himself. The story makes the readers repeat the self-discovery of the main character which may appear not very pleasing. The journey of the character to the dark side with its "interesting, smelly, rich, fertile mess of stuff" shows how a person has his naiveté broken down to see the depth of evil and end up being despaired and bitter. Total disbelief along with the assumption that all men are sinners and there is no good anywhere around the world scare with their pessimism.

The short story bewilders with the complexity of symbolic patters Hawthorne uses. One of the most simple is a symbol of night opposed to sunset as the forces of evil and good. The obvious symbol of the story is the marriage of Goodman to Faith which has metaphorical meaning. The forest symbolizes withdrawal of the person into themselves. Taking “a dreary road” implies retreat from a normal life, isolation and entering the weird world of the subconscious. Jamil (2007) gives notice of the parody, grotesque humor, dramatic irony and the features of Bakhtinian carnival in the story. Goodman Brown’s roaring laughter “Ha! ha! ha!” ridicules the strength of the Puritan world and the evil itself.

It is not clear whether the author condemns Goodman Brown or approves his actions. Anyone could be him on his uncertain way. He is willing to accept both bad and good which he has already confused and pays the price for that. This confusion and ambiguity are characteristic of human life, and Nathaniel Hawthorne presents this idea in an efficient way. He explores the psychological states of an individual, but the story has universal implications. One realizes that there are various forces and temptations around, being not able to differentiate between the good and the evil. Hawthorne’s story poses a challenging dilemma how to accept the dual nature and hidden evil of the mankind, including the friends, relatives and ourselves.

Reference

  1. Jamil, S. (2007). Carnivalesque Freedom in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown. Explicator, 65(3), 143-145.

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