2 August 2010
The Walk of Life
“Young Goodman Brown,” a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, conveys the tale of one young man as he travels with the Devil to understand the truth behind human society. Brown realizes that he has kept a naïve “Faith” in the world, and begins to doubt the very beliefs he has held his entire life. Goodman suspects that there is much more to life than what his Puritan upbringings and his conviction would want him to believe. Consequently, Brown allows himself to abandon his “Faith” ,for just one night, in hopes that he will come home with the true understanding behind the outside world. Sadly, what he finds on this journey will be something that will forever change outlook on life. In the allegory, “Young Goodman Brown”, author Nathaniel Hawthorne utilizes character depiction, interpersonal dialogue, symbolism, and setting to convey the theme that as an individual matures, he/she interprets the world in an entirely different manner.
Throughout this tale, Hawthorne establishes precise character traits, specifically in Goodman Brown, that convey the overall theme. The first major characteristic founded within this short story is Brown’s young age. In life, as well as in “Young Goodman Brown”, an individual’s age expresses that particular person’s corresponding intellect, maturity, and knowledge of the world. As Hawthorne gives details on Goodman’s young life and recent marriage, he gives off the mood that our protagonist is a very immature, young man. Hawthorne’s description of Goodman’s marriage to “Faith” as “But three months” (Hawthorne) displays to the reader that the bond between Brown and his “Faith” is still undeveloped and new. Most people see marriage as a bond that takes sufficient time to establish trust; however, Hawthorne makes it clear that Goodman Brown’s relationship with “Faith” violates the tendency we as a society hold. Brown’s youth also tells the reader that he is naïve and unaware of the world around him. Our protagonist’s strict puritan upbringings along with his age express the fact that Goodman Brown is juvenile in respect to reality; his age and religion have left him unable to comprehend the society in which he lives. In fact, Hawthorne implies this inference through the overall journey of Goodman Brown. Before our protagonist’s trip, it is hinted that he does not understand the world around him, and that he has doubts about the society he lives in. Brown’s statement "of all nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee. My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back again, must needs be done 'twixt now and sunrise,” (Hawthorne) expresses the fact that he must take this expedition, due in part to a lack of knowledge. Overall, this journey can be interpreted as a young man’s road from immaturity and lack of knowledge to maturity and forbidden data.
In addition to a lack of knowledge and immaturity, youth is often interpreted as a lack of life experience. Goodman Brown is at the point in his life and relationship with his “Faith” that he has yet to gain a since of familiarity and understanding. Brown has not had the ability to challenge himself or his beliefs. Consequently, Goodman relies on his limited past experience, religion, and little knowledge to judge the world around him. Hawthorne makes it evident to his readers that the protagonist is very pure and innocent. The attributed purity of Goodman is due in part to the unstained life of this character; his youth and strict upbringing has limited the events and experiences found within his personal life. The reference of “Faith’s” pink ribbons conveys a sense of purity within Brown. The free flowing, pink pattern sends a message that Brown’s faith is not only young and innocent, but unrestrained and unblemished. Although it is not directly stated, it can be inferred that Goodman’s innocence forced his view to transform the world around...