Characterization and Allegory in "Young Goodman Brown"

Topics: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Salem witch trials, Salem, Massachusetts Pages: 3 (1031 words) Published: July 23, 2007
Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" can be a very complicated read. One who simply reads this short story without any further insight would not grasp the idea of the story. With understanding of the characterization and allegory used in it, one can find this story's true meaning and they can take into their mind lots of new ideas from reading it. This is because comprehension of these two elements allow deeper insight into the real meaning of the story.

An important element in "Young Goodman Brown" is characterization. One who reads this story can clearly see the drastic difference between Goodman Brown and the character portrayed as the devil. While the devil remains consistent in his attempts to get Goodman Brown to join his sinful ways, Goodman Brown wavers in his actions and thoughts as his mind fights between what is good and bad.

Although Hawthorne uses stock characters, it does not take away from the story. Using the Puritans as characters actually gives one a better idea of what should be expected from them. Puritans are known to be very religious. They are also known to constantly seek purity, hence their name (Murray). Also, Martha Carrier is referenced in this story (Hawthorne 308). Martha Carrier is well known as someone who was considered a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. Using her as someone Goodman Brown sees in the woods reinforces the idea that everyone there has turned evil.

A great deal of the characterization in this story is done indirectly. You learn about Goodman Brown through his reactions to the extreme situation he is in. As a Puritan, this run-in with the devil makes him question his entire life because religion is his life. It is seen that Goodman Brown is a developing character. When he comes back from his adventure in the forest, his whole way of thinking is altered. He no longer trusts anyone around him. He realizes that all the prominent figures in his church are not so godly and maybe his religion is not as...

Cited: Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown." Perrine 's Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense 9th ed.(2006): 299-310.
"Martha Carrier." The Salem witchcraft papers, Volume 1 : verbatim transcripts of the legal documents of the Salem witchcraft outbreak of 1692. University of Virginia Library. 3 Jul 2007 .
Murray, Iain. "Spiritual Characteristics of the First Christian Society in America." Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings. Oct 1976. 3 Jul 2007 .
Whitney, Terri. "Biographical Information Relating to Nathaniel Hawthorne: Introduction." Hawthorne in Salem. North Shore Community College. 3 Jul 2007 .
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