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Young Goodman Brown

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Autor:   •  November 13, 2017  •  Research Paper  •  1,993 Words (8 Pages)  •  11 Views

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        Young Goodman Brown

        Young Goodman Brown is an American classic written by Nathaniel Hawthorne that delves into ambiguity and ambivalence. Ambiguity and ambivalence play an important role in exploring perception in the short story. In this tale, the main character, Young Goodman Brown must decide if his perception during his journey into the forest is actually true or deception by the Devil. Hawthorne’s exploration of deception in Young Goodman Brown enables the reader to accept Brown’s inability to decipher his own experience at the conclusion of the story.

        At the beginning of the story, the reader learns that Young Goodman Brown is a Puritan living in Salem Village. He views his fellow townspeople, religious leaders, and his wife, Faith as pure and untainted by the Devil. However, in “the heart of the dark wilderness,” as in so many of Hawthorne’s stories, a young man is given the opportunity to see nature as it really is, illuminated by no lights other than its own and observed by his eyes only (Liebman, 1975, pp. 156-169). Goodman Brown’s perception of Salem Village will be altered forever as he journeys into the forest during All Hallow’s Eve.

        Despite it being All Hallow’s Eve, Young Goodman Brown still decides to venture into the forest. Goodman Brown is in a state of ambivalence, he is already torn between Faith and the allure of the Black Mass. Hawthorne’s use of the forest adds mystery and danger of the potential of being eaten by animals or encountering Indians. However, the ambiguity of the forest entangles Goodman Brown. Brown is a naive young man believing in his own free will to renege on his sinful promise (Korb 2002). His development into a man is shown through his increasing endeavors to resist the evil of the Devil.

        Within the first few steps into the forest, Young Goodman Brown runs into an older man who appears to embody the Devil. Hawthorne ironically implies that Goodman Brown and the older man might have been taken for father and son. Here, Brown is faced with his first struggle of keeping his faith. Brown is telling the old man that “Faith kept me back awhile”. Goodman Brown almost immediately questions his purpose of going to the Black Mass. However, he finds himself unconsciously resuming his walk further into the forest. The Devil knows once he convinces Brown to continue down the path, Brown’s conflicting feelings will come to an end. Already, Young Goodman Brown’s ambivalent feelings are causing him to be deceived.

        The Devil knows corruption does not happen all at once, but step by step. At this point in the story, Young Goodman Brown thinks he knows everything about his family and his community in Salem Village. Nevertheless, the Devil plans to slowly peel away his Puritan faith by inducing Goodman Brown to trust him. The Devil first peels away at his family. The Devil tells Brown that he is well acquainted with his father and grandfather and that they too have taken this same path in the past. He tells Brown that he had in fact helped his grandfather, the town constable,  punish a Quaker woman by lashing her through the streets of Salem. Also, the old man/devil was the one who gave a pitch-pine knot to his father to set fire to an Indian village. “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 first of the name of Brown, that ever took this path and kept-- (Hawthorne).” Initially, Goodman Brown rejects the notion that his family could have been so wicked, but shortly after shows an element of belief. There can be no doubt that Young Goodman Brown is confused by the ambiguity of his experience so far (Liebman, 1975, pp. 156-159).

        The Devil knows he is slowly breaking down Young Goodman Brown and continues by peeling away another layer, his community. The Devil now claims that not only is he acquainted with Brown’s family. “I have a very general acquaintance here in New England. The deacons of many a church have drunk the communion wine with me; the selectmen, of divers towns, make their chairman; and a majority of the Great and General Court are firm supporters of my interest. The governor and I, too--but these are state-secrets (Hawthorne).” However, Goodman Brown replies they may have sinned, but they have no effect on his life. Finally, the Devil talks about Brown’s beloved catechism teacher, Goody Cloyse, Deacon Gookin, and the minister. The devil even suggests that his spiritual guides are headed toward the Black Mass and that everyone from Salem Village will be in attendance. This preludes that all men are secretly evil and worship the Devil (Liebman, 1975, pp. 156-159).

        Although, Young Goodman Brown is quick to reject what the Devil is implying, the element of suspicion keeps leading him toward the Black Mass. Up to this point in Young Goodman Brown, the reader is slowly realizing that Goodman Brown is inept at deciphering what is truth and what is not. Events which appear to Brown’s eyes only are recorded as if they actually happened (Liebman, 1975, pp. 156-169). However, he is indeed an unreliable narrator. In fact, the Devil is only visible to Goodman Brown in the forest. Brown only recognizes a pious dame as she is pointed out by the Devil. He never actually truly sees that it is Goody Cloyse. Also, Brown only hears the hoof-tramps along the road and the two grave old voices of the riders that pass. He only thinks he hears the voices of Deacon Gookin and the minister. And after all these events occur, Young Goodman Brown cries, “With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil” (Hawthorne). It is apparent to the reader that Goodman Brown is being deceived ocularly and auditorily by the Devil himself.

        In spite of what has occurred, Young Goodman Brown still carries forth to the Black Mass. However, the reader is well aware that the Devil has gained his trust to an extent, and is slowly breaking him of his Puritan faith. The Devil realizes it is not long until Goodman Brown will lose his faith completely. Goodman Brown is yet again faced with highly unbelievable events following seeing Goody Cloyse, Deacon Gookin, and the minister. He sees a black cloud and hears voices coming from it. Then Goodman Brown sees a fire from a distance surrounded by all the townspeople who magically appear then disappear. However, again he never is able to truly identify the familiar faces of the people of Salem Village. It is at this point in the story that Brown has really discredited himself. The reader comes to the conclusion that Young Goodman Brown is being played for a fool by the Devil, and Brown is not able to trust what he thinks or sees in the forest.

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