Young Goodman Brown Essay, Research Paper
“Young Goodman Brown” Essay
What is blind Faith? Faith is accepting what you are taught or told without trying to prove or disprove it, rather than discovering it through experience. Atheism suggests that those who believe in God have blind faith-and they do. It has not been proven that God exists; similarly, it has not been proven that humans are kind, honest, and good by nature. Young Goodman Brown is a character in “Young Goodman Brown,” who leaves his known world in Salem village and travels an unknown road in a dark forest in the middle of the night, a common motif in literature better known as the Hero’s journey, and is faced withobstacles. He must decide if he will carry his journey out till the end, or turn back and not learn the truth about himself and other humans. The story “Young Goodman Brown,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne traces Young Goodman Brown’s experiences, physical and psychological, paralleling the Hero’s Journey and showing how he discovers that humans are truly evil by nature; therefore, altering his views of other humans and life itself.
In the beginning of the story, Goodman Brown is faced with a decision to stay home with his wife another night or to take off on his journey. This parallels his psychological decision to leave behind all that he knew to be true up until that point and discover the truth no matter how harsh it may be. The call, from the Hero’s journey, is when Goodman Brown decides to go out alone to discover himself. Faith, his wife, is urging him to stay with her instead of leaving that night. She almost convinces Brown to stay, but his desire to discover himself overpowers his desire to stay with Faith. The struggle going on inside of Goodman Brown’s head is really between remaining innocent and having blind faith in the nature of man or embarking on the journey to discover his true self, no matter what that may be. The threshold, or jumping off point for Brown, is when he has made his final decision to ignore his wife’s pleas and take his journey. It is ironic when Faith finally lets him go and says, “Then God bless you! ?and may you find all well when you come back” (pg. 87). He is only gone one night and nothing substantial changes in Salem village while he is gone, but since he is so dramatically changed emotionally during his excursion, he remains sad and distrustful for the rest of his life, due to knowing the truth about human nature.
Young Goodman Brown must leave behind his known world, Salem village, and enter an unknown world, the forest, to face challenges he must be capable of overcoming. Allegorically, he embarks on a psychological and spiritual odyssey. Entering an unknown territory is scary and puts a person at a much higher physical and emotional risk. “There may be a devlish Indian behind every tree” shows how insecure Young Goodman Brown is in the forest because he is exposing himself to danger, which in this case, is evil itself (pg. 88). He must stay strong and overcome his weaknesses to get past his biggest fears and continue his Hero’s journey. Goodman Brown is tempted to turn around and go home, but he sticks it out, and continues onward. Goodman Brown remarks, “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!” just before noticing a man, similar in appearance to himself, sitting under a tree (pg. 88). This man speaks as if he was expecting Brown although Brown is a little shocked to see him. He represents the previously unrecognized evil nature of Young Goodman Brown, possibly the devil himself. Although Goodman Brown is reluctant to continue, this man convinces him to go just a little further. Goodman Brown tries to explain why he wishes to turn back by saying, “My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and good Christians?” (pg. 89). The man replies that he has walked this road with all Brown’s ancestors before, and therefore, convinces Brown to continue the path. Also, the man must explain that even people who appear dignified and honorable such as the minister, have taken the path. Young Goodman Brown comes across Goody Cloyce who taught him his catechism in youth, as well as the minister and Deacon Gookin who were his spiritual and moral advisors. Seeing them on the same path was more assuring, but at the same time made him begin to doubt mankind.
The abyss in “Young Goodman Brown” is when he sees his wife, Faith. Goodman Brown hears Faith’s voice, and it appears that “?both saints and sinners seemed to encourage her onward.” (Pg. 94) The call of Goodman Brown’s voice is desperately crying out to his Faith. The cloud of voices sweeps away and Goodman Brown is left in solitude. Now, he realizes that the one person who he truly loves and believes to be pure and good has an evil nature, too. Brown cries “There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil, for thee is this world given” (pg. 94) He willingly charges forward down the path from that point on. Once he is with the congregation and is brought forth before everyone, along with Faith, he tries again to save Faith’s soul by telling her to look to the heavens, but does not know if she does or not. He is then baptized with a red liquid by the hand of evil.
Although Young Goodman Brown felt a “?loathful brotherhood by the sympathy of all that was wicked in his heart” he could not ever return to a state of blind faith upon returning home (pg. 97). Goodman Brown has been enlightened and now understands that human nature is evil. He has discovered what he was looking for and can return back to his known world, Salem village. The gift of truth has been bestowed upon him. Young Goodman Brown returns to his home the next morning as a new man. Throughout the rest of his life, Goodman Brown does not see the people he once thought he knew the true nature of the same as he used to. Hawthorne states, “A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man did he become from the night of that fearful dream” (pg. 100). Even Young Goodman Brown’s “?dying hour was gloom” (pg. 100). His life was changed so drastically during that one night that he could never forget it.
Through the Hero’s journey, Hawthorne shows the development of Young Goodman Brown as he discovers his true nature as evil. He comes to terms with the reality that humans are evil creatures, no matter how honorable or innocent they may seem. Transformations, both physical and psychological, took place during Goodman Brown’s expedition, but were these changes necessarily good ones? Which is better: to have grace and innocence, but be happy with life, or to know the truth although it may hurt to know it? There is a clich? used to explain a good point of view that says, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you.” Young Goodman Brown would have led a happier life if he remained innocent, but at least he received something good from his journey, knowledge and truth.