, Research Paper
Underlining meaning of Young Goodman BrownThe story about young goodman Brown centers around the allegory, or parable, of a man pitted against his past and his desires to reach beyond his heaven, that has surrounded him in darkness, which would eventually be 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 essence of the story is based upon the religious imagery of Hawthorne’s New England in the times of Salem and active religious conflict. The beginning of the story mentions the goodman’s wife, Faith. The names of the characters alone serve as an indication of what Hawthorne states 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.” The devil awaits young goodman Brown as he states that the clock of the old south was striking but a few minutes past. Hawthorne here is stating how quickly the devil can move, intensifying the airs of the supernatural. 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 devil and possibly win. At this stage in the story the reader still has hope for the goodman , who must now dealwith what he feels is his honor-bound duty. A “good man” in Hawthorne’s day was a person whocame from a proper lineage. This very lineage Hawthorne exploits as he begins the goodman’sconversation with the devil. The goodman claims that he is from a family of good men that havenever been into the forest on such an errand to meet the devil. Hawthorne depends upon thisdefense to criticize the patriarchal lineage upon which a person places his worth. This view is
quickly derailed as the devil himself states that all of his ancestors were with him as they torturedwomen in Salem or burned Indian villages to the ground, and afterwards the devil and hisancestors would go for a friendly walk. Hawthorne has mocked the institution of young goodmanBrown’s lineage and his society’s view of honor, by pointing to some simple facts. The questionremains as to whom or what is the devil. If the devil points to the painful truth of the past and thereality of people in the present, is this the allegorical face of evil? Or is Hawthorne playing uponthe reader’s nature to see the devil as evil and stand next to the “good man” and his fate?Either way, the story forces an evaluation of the values of Puritan New England. Whenyoung goodman Brown decides not to follow the devil into the world of darkness, the rolereversal of the allegorical subplot begins. The devil has apparently infested all of the Puritan’ssouls with sin, at least in the eyes of young goodman Brown after he discovers that all of the townhas met the devil and is on friendly terms with the demon. This leads to young goodman Brownbeing described as a lunatic who cannot discern his religious fanaticism from reality. This isHawthorne’s comment upon the religious communities of his time. The Puritans, with their gift offree religion, had decided to insure that no diversity of opinion could be presented. Thus thecommunity was seen as pure and rid of all external “evils”. Hawthorne clearly shows that the evils are manifest in man’s actions and not in man’s ideologies or even his religion. We cannotlean on the crutch of religion, not when we are raping and killing to gain land or “purity”.This paper was written by Erin Woodhouse and they can be reached at Toolman@cobweb.net.