The Reflection of Hawthorne’s Life in “Young Goodman Brown”

“Young Goodman Brown” highlights Nathaniel Hawthorne’s displeasure with the Puritan society’s pretenses. He blames them for the assaults on innocent Christians and the burning of Indian villages. These acts punctuated the author’s life and had a significant impact on his writing. The Puritan phenomenon was a religious facade that impacted Hawthorne’s worldview, prompting a close examination of the denomination’s inner workings, which revealed its vile nature.

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The story’s main character highlights how humanity oscillates between depravity and innocence as he grapples with the concepts of people’s innate goodness and the devil’s influence over their lives. Goodman Brown’s faith in his father’s and grandfather’s virtue was unshakable at the beginning of the story. However, the old man, whom Hawthorne reveals is the devil incarnate, states that he knew them intimately.

He continues to point out that Goody Cloyse was a witch, Faith was corruptible, and most of Goodman’s close associates were the fallen angel’s followers (Hawthorne 93). Goodman Brown exemplifies Hawthorne’s lack of religious conviction seeing as the former is easily swayed. Goodman’s awakening to his compatriot’s evil nature serves to illustrate Hawthorne’s suspicion of the Puritan society’s disreputable nature. It is evident that the public displays of godliness are a smokescreen behind which ungodly acts are performed.

It is evident that the inevitable loss of innocence punctuated Hawthorne’s life. Goodman Brown makes a conscious choice to meet the devil in the forest, illustrating the people’s curiosity and innate susceptibility to corruption. The forest represents aspects of the new world that Puritans believed were to be feared and eventually dominated. Hawthorne illustrates the dominant societal view that evil lurked amongst the trees and needed to be purged. The people were led to believe that the forest’s occupants, who were Indian, needed to be eliminated to preserve normalcy. The people easily accepted the idea after they participated in the prosecution of the natives. Hawthorne struggles with society’s willingness to extinguish life after being easily convinced by corrupt Puritan leaders.

Hawthorne’s struggle with his beliefs is highlighted in Goodman Brown’s indecision over whether to forsake his religion or embrace evil. The main character promises to return to Faith after a single night of wickedness and promises to “cling to her skirts.” (Hawthorne 88). This highlights the prevalent notion that a man’s wife had the ability to offer redemption. Men often relied on the opposite sex for religious sustenance because the belief in the female form’s purity was prevalent. Goodman’s credence is tested when he realizes that Faith was part of the devil’s associates. Hawthorne presents a common dilemma that tormented Christians during his time. Choosing between right and wrong often meant giving in to the malevolence that was quickly justified as necessary.

“Yong Goodman Brown” is a reflection of the author’s life because it highlights his struggles with faith and depicts the inevitable loss of innocence that characterized Puritan existence. In addition, the tussle between right and wrong forced him to question morality. These issues defined various aspects of societal interactions at a time when the persecution of innocents was an inextricable part of religious identity. Reconciling the vicious acts committed by the Puritans with Christian principles created a moral dilemma. The separation between right and wrong was blurred as Hawthorne sought the truth about his beliefs in a world where evil reigned supreme.

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Work Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. Ticknor and Fields, 1854.

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