"Young Goodman Brown", written in 1835 by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is known for being one of the best portrayals of Puritan society during the seventeenth century. "Young Goodman Brown" tells a tale of a young Puritan man that makes a pact with the devil. Brown's loved ones attend a Black Mass and he cannot forgive them. Lonely and melancholy, Brown lives the rest of his life wondering if that Black Mass event was a dream or reality. Critics all agree that whether the Black Mass was real or not, a lasting negative impression was left on Goodman Brown.
One critic, Rena Korb, says that "Young Goodman Brown" accurately depicts Puritan society. Korb states, "Hawthorne clearly understands the demands of the Puritan faith, and it is no surprise to find that he has a legitimate claim to this heritage "(Korb 303). In other words, Korb believes Hawthorne effectively places us in the story through his knowledge of Puritan history. Even though "Young Goodman Brown" is rich with Puritan history, Korb affirms the tale takes the form of an allegory. Goodman Brown represents the everyday man and his wife, Faith, represents Brown's religious side. Brown leaves Faith and abandons his belief in God and humanity. Korb surmises that, "Wheras many times a predominantly allegorical story fails in other areas-characterization, plot, or simply engaging the reader-Hawthorne succeeds at this double task remarkably" (304). She also critiques the way Hawthorne adds ambiguity to the story with the suggestion from the tale "Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed of a witch meeting" (Hawthorne 391)? Korb marvels at the way Hawthorne suggests throughout the story how dreams can foreshadow events.
Most critics, including Robert E. Morsberger, agree that "Young Goodman Brown" is considered one of the most effective pieces of literature to ever address the hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch trials.
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