Young Goodman Brown

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Brant Bond
Cardiff
ENG 231
2/17/11

From Goodman to bad man
Christianity has had a major impact on Western civilization. The strong presence of the Christian church in Europe for several centuries shaped societies ideology way back then and even shape ours today. The church affected society socially and politically as much as it did spiritually. People’s imaginations and fantasy’s were not separate from this Christian way of thinking. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story Young Goodman Brown (Hawthorne) you see an example of this Christian type of fantasy, although the work appears to contain a deeper message of faith, which is also a fundamental Christian value. In Young Goodman Brown Hawthorne depicts a young man named Goodman Brown who leaves his wife, who is ironically named Faith, and heads into the unknown of the wilderness. The story contains very dark imagery of demons and everything devilish, and Goodman Brown struggles with exhaustion, fear, and anger. Hawthorne sets the stage for a downward spiral that sends Goodman Brown straight to a Christian Hell. It is a story that serves as example of what could make a good young man turn into a wicked old fool. This story is a detailed and very dark depiction of a major Christian fear which is to succumb to the wishes of the devil. It shows that all men, even those who have it as good as young Goodman Brown could fall at the hands of the fallen angel. A story I am sure, in its time was very frightening and most certainly not for children’s eyes. Was Hawthorne trying to ignite fear in Christians? Is the wilderness a metaphor for the real world? A young Goodman Brown the symbol of a Christian who could easily lose his path in the harshness of the real world? All of these questions could be true. The loss of faith is the beginning of all of young Goodman Brown’s woes, because after he leaves his wife Faith and heads into the forest that is when his downward spiral begins. Perhaps, Hawthorne is saying that if you stay home with your Faith then the real world would not affect you and you would be closer to the Lord. That the wilderness that is the real world will only leads to evil and wicked ways. There is a scene in the story that shows an interaction between young Goodman Brown and a stranger. The stranger appears to be an older gentleman who young Goodman Brown speaks with as if he is an old friend. The old chap is walking with a twisted staff that resembles a serpent. For Christians the serpent serves as a symbol of the devil. In The Bible Eve is deceived in the garden of Eden by a serpent a deception that led her to eat a piece of fruit from the tree that God ordered them not to eat from. Goodman Brown is noticeably getting weary from his journey, and his new companion continually offers the young man his staff to walk with so it may ease his travel. After the sudden appearance of the elder traveler he addresses Goodman Brown as if he knew him well and in a way that says he was expecting him. The traveler then comments on the slow start to the young mans journey and says, “Come, Goodman Brown,” cried his fellow traveler, “this is a dull pace for the beginning of a journey. Take my staff if you are so soon weary.” (2) Hawthorne also writes that the elder traveler and young Goodman Brown could be mistaken for father and son. Could the elder traveler actually be an older Goodman Brown who was expecting his former self on this road to darkness and despair? The traveler encourages the young man along his journey when he says, “Let us walk on nevertheless, reasoning as we go; and if I convince thee not shall turn back. We are but a little way in the forest yet.” (2) Goodman brown responds to the traveler by saying. “Too far! Too far!” exclaimed the goodman unconsciously, resuming his walk. “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 since the days of the martyrs; and shall I be the...
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