Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Is it read-worth? Let’s get real here: the reason why 90% of people read stories like Young Goodman Brown are because a class they are taking them requires them too. The writing itself is fine, but it can be hard to understand from a modern perspective. I enjoyed the piece, but don’t necessarily recommend it to others. However, you can find it here if you wish to read it. It’s completely free.

I mostly wanted to make a post about this short story because I found a very short essay I wrote that might help people better understand the story. Or at least pretend to. Not that I’m saying it’s a bad piece of writing, it’s very good, but most people don’t really enjoy reading stories like this.

SPOILER ALERT: My Young Goodman Brown Essay

Faith is the young wife of Goodman Brown. They’ve been married for only a short period of time, but he relies on her heavily as a symbol of all things good and pure. In the story, her faith in God strengthens his own. If she, his lovely wife, is not faithful, how can Goodman expect to be? However, she does not seem to feel the same way about Goodman. At the very beginning of the book, she questions what he is going to go do in the middle of the night. Why does he need to leave her? While he may love her as a symbol of all that is good, Faith does not entirely trust her husband and mentions that she also has questionable thoughts when she is left alone, particularly at night. While she may try to resist temptation and sinful behavior, and he believes she is the image of good faith and godly behavior, she isn’t entirely free of human weaknesses. She questions, she wants, and she struggles with the same challenges we all face. In the book, Faith may be used a symbol for Goodman’s own faith, but, as a character, she’s just another person. 

In the short story, Young Goodman Brown, Goodman Brown seems to lose the naive view he had of the people around him. In the beginning, Goodman assumes that all people are inherently good. He does not question his deacon, his governor, and he holds his wife, Faith, in extremely high esteem. They all are good God-fearing members of the community. However, when he leaves his house to meet with an old man in the woods, he loses all innocence he once had. The old man, who represents the devil throughout the story, tells him of how he regularly drinks with highly esteemed members of the church, advises the governor, and how he played a role in Goodman’s own family’s decisions. Goodman then finds that most of his community, who he labels witches and evil-doers, meet with this devil regularly. He even sees his own wife being tempted by the devil’s promises. As a result, when he finds himself waking up in the middle of the woods, his view of the world is irrevocably changed. Goodman does not trust the people around him. He doesn’t even love his wife anymore, fearing her to be doing the work of the devil. He has lost all innocence and, in a manner of speaking, has lost his connection with God by blocking out the love, blessings, and behavior of the people around him. While most people do lose a portion of their innocence at one time, Goodman shows what happens when you lose all innocence and all faith. 

Faith is perhaps the most important symbol throughout Young Goodman Brown. She represents Goodman’s faith in god – his goodness, purity, and ability to connect with others. When Goodman sees her being tempted by the devil, he loses all hope and emotionally disconnects from the church, his community, and his wife. If she is unable to be godly at all times, he has no hope for himself. 

What happened to Goodman Brown was both a dream and a reality. I believe the actual events that occurred were a dream that resulted from his fear of being in the woods, his actions being questioned by his wife, and his own budding sense of distrust. However, the lasting effect is the reality that matters. He wasted the rest of life distrusting the people around him, he lost all love for his wife, and he failed to connect with any of his children in a meaningful way. It does not matter if those events occurred as much as it matters that Goodman believes that they did. He wasted his life by believing that the people around him had given in to evil.

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