Young Goodman Brown

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In this extract from “Young Goodman Brown”, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses symbolism, imagery and point of view to depict Goodman Brown’s eventual journey from naivety in man’s purity of faith to recognition of man’s disposition to evil. It reveals Brown’s misplaced faith in man, who is deficient, instead of God. In the dialogue that ensues between the minister and Deacon Gookin, we learn of an impending meeting expecting participants hailing from “Falmouth and beyond... Indian powows” (Hawthorne 26). The geographical listing hints at the far-reaching influence of the devil. By including the Indians, Hawthorne subtly contrasts the inclusiveness of this heathen community versus the exclusivity of the Puritan community. This perhaps also alludes to the dogmatic view of the Puritan doctrine of predestination which regards all outside their community as doomed therefore limiting the influence of the Christian faith. In addition, the sacrosanct act of ordination is undermined suggesting the meaninglessness of such appointments and celebrations when true faith is missing. Brown clearly holds the two men in high esteem as he was concerned about facing the minister and Deacon with “a clear conscience” (25) if he consorts with the devil. This chance encounter destabilises Brown’s fundamental belief system. He realises that he has been deceived by the appearance of piousness and purity of faith by those regarded as the elect of God but are in effect devil worshippers. He goes through a sort of an awakening and his faith is shaken as he begins to see the corruptibility and hypocrisy of a society that values public display of morality over genuine private faith.

Hawthorne uses the visual imagery of the overwhelming darkness in the forest to hint at the Brown’s delusion since “the depth of gloom” (25) could have impaired his ability to make out the true forms of the two men. He assumes it is the deacon from his perceived familiarity of the voice. This could indicate...
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