The Goodman phenomenon characterizes a fundamental contribution of Hawthorne to the puritan literary scene. Goodman’s survival is only assured only to the extent that he finds a way to question popular beliefs, the tendency to distrust those beliefs and the insistence to depend on his own individualism as the compensation for the endemic loss in the collective culture. Goodman perceives that society is constructed underneath around and about evil and that depravity is a common lot of all. In an effort to survive the chaos of this disastrous conditioning, his fate is attended with excoriating loss and unbelievable trauma.
Background and Summary of the Anthology
The story of Goodman set in the 17th century American Salem Village, Massachusetts is one of the largely known and foremost enduring pieces of Puritan anthologies. Goodman sets off one evening, leaving behind his wife Faith through a gloomy forest walk. The horrifying darkness of the forest and the people in there make him even more afraid and distraught. He hears the voice of Faith but when he calls out to reach her, he cannot and tormented by the evil forest. He soon finds an assembly of the townspeople in a cleared space in the forest, with a flame-lit rock altar. It appears the assembly is an initiation ceremony and the new acolytes, Goodman and Faith are taken forward for ritualized initiation. Being an unfamiliar procession, Goodman calls for heaven's intervention and then the scene vanished, which deeply shake him. On his return to the people, Goodman believes and trusts no one and the Christian practices he witnesses in the community make no sense to him. He lives later on as an embittered cynic who has lost faith in everyone including his wife.
From the standpoint of an impartial critic, one sees the night’s encounters of Goodman Brown as a vision or dream that reflected the very mechanism of Puritan religion. It was a useful revelation of what many people assumes about clergymen of their piety (Takeuchi & Claywell 1844). Hawthorne is unabashed by any persuasions to reveal very intricate connections between government and religious indoctrination in a very subtle but truly naturalistic manner. The symbolism of the forest and the fire resonate suitably with the natural world’s stage where evil and good is transacted between the world of the living and that of the spirits. Goodman Brown is a feeble inspiration of what he would naturally have attained from the initiation proceedings but he is endemically cowardly to even utter a word of meaning afterward. In Christian interpretation, perhaps he would be judged as ‘a salt that has lost his saltiness.’
Critical Impact and Analysis of Young Goodman Brown
The author Hawthorne uses s characteristic dialect of the 17th century Puritan community to depict the exact setting of the narrative as Salem village. Although allegorical about the process of evil and how awkward conditions in society defeat human goodwill, Goodman becomes a reactionary and spells tropes of survival in a world that are not home to anyone. Hawthorne characters become abstract, displaced, universalized embodiments that enact paradoxical roles (Lindgren 44). This paradoxical erudition achieves a critical contrast and irony at the end of the narrative. Through satirically describing the pretenses that characterize the Puritan society, Hawthorne shows the true nature of the characters much divorced from their popularly embodies sentiments and ideals of piousness.
The story appears to give three distinct societal environments with Goodman being a very integrated member of the society at the beginning, transitioning to a dreamlike procession in the darkness and in the last part a return to the society a recluse who tolerates and bears up no one (Xing 22). During the course of the night procession, Goodman transitions like in a Christ-like transfiguration into a completely new creation. Goodman instead acts and behaves like the Christ-elect or Gods-elect among other men, whose role now is beyond the ordinary human expectations. In the three months of marriage, he begins to realize that the institution is sinful and practiced well only if one takes given profanities and depravity, as opposed to the charitable salvation that he intends to practice.
While in the forest, Goodman expressed himself to the depths of worldly temptations, much like the Christian temptations and assumed an episode of self-exploration. The events that are shrouded in mystery, fetched from the Christian relics of incarnate self-exploration make him doubt everything instead of grounding his faith. There are tropes of gothic romanticism when the characters of the narrative dispel Christian values and dispose themselves to outlandish religiosities alien to their immediate societies (Blyth 2). Nathaniel Hawthorne, like many other American writers of the 19th century, tended to exceed ordinary realism to manifest exceeding powers of the individual person; they also expressed extreme experiences of love and fear, hate and horror. They expressed great desire for natural landscapes and even greater desire in the everyday ordinary experiences as opposed to the wild excitement with new traditions and tastes. Hawthorne himself alludes to Goodman’s transformation in the forest, a place where natural spirit, of the natural world, the natural aura of fire lit on wood made symbolic appearances.
A bit different from the European heroic character, the American hero was a man often isolated, alone in the wilderness and without touch with the rest of community in a very ordinary way. These individuals often experienced transformation and became bogged down by the ordinariness of social process. They manifested even psychotic dispositions and although silently groaning about everything they detest, they do not become popular champions of change. The trope of dark romance manifests in Goodman’s struggle with evil within himself rather than exposing the tensions and seeking that society be reformed in some way.
While in Goodman we wish to find a champion that overcomes the temptation, he is actually the opposite; a man tempted and failed in the temptation. His curiosity brought only his weakness to the fore (Azizmohammadi & Kamran 324). In the ceremony, the devil only tempts Goodman with the truth about himself and the rest of the nation and he succumbs by rejecting himself and the state of society altogether. Much like the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, Goodman and Faith fall short of the glory and are banished by their own indolence.
Thematic Tropes in Young Goodman Brown
The general orientation of the anthology deals with human weakness in the light spiritual welfare and judgment. The remarkable identity of the Puritan townsman was a symbolic and typical Christian devout who generally lived well with his fellow people. Nonetheless, Hawthorne gives a particular disapproval of the established prototype.
a. Fallibility of Public Morality
Goodman observes the frequent commitment of the public to the observance of morality until he comes to the juncture of revelation when his beliefs are overturned by a strange experience in the forest. When at the forest the dark figure wanted to smear a red liquid upon the face of the initiates like a baptismal sign, and in attendance were the local clergy of the Salem community, the who meaning of summoning becomes corrupt and the spiritual comfort therein loses its value. Deacon Gookin and Goody Cloyse who are revered clergymen ought not to have partaken of the processions broadly as they did for that makes the whole business of Puritan religion meaningless.
b. Inescapable loss of innocence in society
The manner in which the rigid puritan culture is propagated makes members of the society have private misgiving about the reality of the condition because, in their very welfare, not all is well. Whatever the case, pertaining to the vision of Goodman Brown in the forest, whether it is reality or hallucination, the final effect is that his endemic corruptibility leads him to the rejection of the perceived goodness inherent in all men of his Salem Village (Ahmadian & Yazdani 155). Goodman could have decided to reject the procession as an isolated case or event of wickedness if he willed, but nonetheless, he becomes a man reformed in some fundamental way as if his very nature transformed.
c. Fear of the unknown
Hawthorne prominently describes the fear of the wilderness throughout the anthology. Immediately, Goodman Brown, he is surrounded by sounds and sights that scare him, the people scare him, and even the fact that cannot trace his wife after he hears her voice is troubling (McIntosh 81). A constant interpretation of the New World among the puritans is a place that was scary and wild but nonetheless, it was a wilderness they had to morally dominate as a matter of survival. When he penetrated deeper, he actually meets with the devil, but he considers his courage a matter of achievement and family honor. The tragedy is that he also meets Goody Cloyse and Deacon Gookin, which were unexpected events.
Hawthorne made a suitable argument against established thought systems of society and his cautions are relevant to all ages and in all societies that practice a religion. In the western tradition of gothic literature, the story never really should end with the initiated men becoming terrified and untrusting, which is the moral tragedy of the author. Instead, the initiated Goodman Brown ought to become for society a champion for good acts that extends human welfare because he had the chance to come to terms with the real futility in everything culturally defined. In the end, the readers feel angered by the timid disposition of Goodman brown because if human nature is evil and the purpose of his initiation was to get to terms with such a strange reality, what would he have to do with the revelations? Hawthorne’s masterpiece is a relevant reading for all times though the ending is too sudden just like the message.
Ahmadian, Moussa, and Hooshang Yazdani. "A Study of the Effects of Intertextuality Awareness on Reading Literary Texts: The Case of Short Stories." Journal of Educational and Social Research 3.2 (2013): 155.
Azizmohammadi, Fatemeh, and Mohammad Kamrani. "A study of" young Goodman brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorn in the light of Freudian psychology theory." Scientific Journal of Review 3.5 (2014): 323-326.
Blyth, Caroline. "Review of Alison Jack, The Bible, and Literature. London: SCM Press, 2012." The Bible and Critical Theory 9.1-2 (2013).
Lindgren, Kaitlyn. "Summer Sunlight and A Blackness Ten Times Black: Nathaniel Hawthorne's Problem of Sin." (2016).
McIntosh, James. "Hawthorne's Habitations: A Literary Life." Nineteenth-Century Contexts 36.1 (2014): 80-82.
Takeuchi, Kisaki, and Gina Claywell. "Famous for writing The Scarlet Letter, Nathanial Hawthorne (1804-1864) is the most." (2016).
Xing, Shuna. "A Critical Study of the “Sin” in Hawthorne’s Short Stories." 2013 International Conference on Applied Social Science Research (ICASSR-2013). Atlantis Press, 2013.
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