I found Young Goodman Brown to be a powerful piece of work. Hawthorne uses descriptive language to create an allegorical story about Puritans during the time of the Salem witch trials. Goodman goes on a journey, leaving his wife Faith behind, he meets up with a man to continue the journey together. Along the way he discovers the people in his community aren’t the righteous God loving people he believed them to be, but sinners in league with the devil.
I liked Hawthorne’s use of the name “Faith”. She is not only a person, but a concept as well. Goodman’s Faith:
- Begs him not to go on the journey – “‘Dearest heart,’ whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, ‘prithee put off your journey until sunrise and sleep in your own be to-night. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she’s a fears of herself sometimes. Pray tarry with me this nigh, dear husband, of all nights in the year!’”
- He chooses to leave his Faith behind – “‘My love and Faith…this one night I must tarry away from thee…Poor little Faith….What a wretch I am to leave her on such an errand!…after this one night I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.’ With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose.”
- He worries about his Faith – “‘Well, the, to end the matter at once,’ said Goodman Brown, considerable nettled, ‘there is my wife, Faith. It would break her little heart; and I’d rather break my own.’ ‘Nay, if that be the case, answered the other, ‘e’en go thy ways, Goodman Brown. I would not for twenty old women like the one hobbling before us that Faith should come to any harm.”
- Then he hears his Faith dying – “‘Faith!’…There was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices, fading into far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away, leaving the clear and silent sky above Goodman Brown. But something fluttered on the branch of the tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon. ‘My Faith is gone!’”
- After the evening ends, he returns home and rejects Faith – Turning the corner by the meeting-house, he spied the head of Faith, with the pink ribbons, gazing anxiously forth, and bursting into such joy at sight of him that she skipped along the street and almost kissed her husband before the whole village. But Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on with out a greeting.”
The line “‘My Faith is gone!” Is the most important line to me in the whole story. After his Faith dies, he picks up the walking stick that has the serpent on it, which he rejected earlier. This is almost like in The Bible when Eve eats the apple. Goodman has given in to the Devil’s and discovers sin. When he leaves Faith at the beginning he promises to come back to her and “‘cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven’,” but instead he returns and “looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on with out a greeting.” Faith is at the fire with the other Devil worshipers and earlier the devil character says “‘Faith should never come to any harm’” almost as if he is saying the devil needs people to have as much Faith as God would need them to.
The forest Hawthorne describes beautifully and hauntingly. “He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind.” The forest closing behind gives the idea that Goodman has no option to turn back and must proceed forward. As he gets further into the forest, he continually worries about how pillars of his community, who are the example of all that is proper and good, would not approve of what he was doing and how would he be able to face them the next day. Yet, he soon discovers they are all taking the same path as him with the Devil. Once Goodman has the realization that these people are not what he thought, he can’t look at them the same again. When he speaks to his traveling partner, the partner talks about how he had been with Goodman’s father and grandfather when they had punished women for being witches. Hawthorne has these to people commit the same crime that his own father and grandfather committed. He is saying that the Devil was with them when they committed these grievous acts and shows his disapproval and own shame in those actions.
This whole story is a commentary on how Hawthorne views the Puritans. Pretending to live in good and with faith in God, but really they have chose the path of the Devil. I am not a religious person by any means, but the images in this story were so powerful. This story transcends religion and the time of the Puritans. At any time there are people who pretend they are good, speak righteously, and condemn others, but they themselves are not perfect and have not always been on a good path. They use their ideals to justify actions, even when the actions are unjustifiable. The only other Hawthorne I have read was The Scarlett Letter, which I did not like and made me not look as forward to reading this story. I am glad I did read it and it was the one assigned to me because I enjoyed it so much.