Please apply psycoanalytic criticism to Nataniel Hawthrone's "Young Goodman Brown."Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In searching for the underlying motives and thinking of Goodman Brown, the reader need look first to the exposition of Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown."  There,the sanctimonious Puritan, Goodman Brown, tells his wife Faith that he is going into the forest primeval just "this one night."  In fact, he deludes himself,

With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose.

Goodman Brown leads his wife to think that he makes the journey into the forest because it is a task that he must accomplish, when he is actually challenging the devil:

"There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree," said Goodman Brown to himself; and he glanced fearfully behind him as he added, "What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow?"

Brown feels that he must test his faith, and as a good Puritan, he feels justified in what he does, believing himself a Christian who can resist evil.  However, when the old man with the staff that resembles a serpent appears, he is the likeness of Goodman himself,

...the second traveller was ...apparently in the same rank of life as Goodman Brown, and bearing a considerable resemblance to him, though perhaps more in expression than features.

This second traveller, who claims to have been good friends with Brown's father, laughs when Goodman claims to be a man of "prayer and good works to boot, [who] abide[s] no such wickedness."  Apparently, the traveller is the darker side of Goodman himself, a side which he refuses to admit because of his Puritan beliefs that he is saved.  As further proof of this, while Goodman and the elder traveller continue, the traveller's exhortations to "persevere in the path and discourses" seem 

rather to spring up in the bosom of his auditor than to be suggested by himself.

Because Brown's faith is too simple in itself--he says he will go "just this one night" to witness the black mass--his Puritan self-righteousness projects his own Calvinistic sense of Depravity and Original Sin from which he cannot free himself onto others.  So, as the pink ribbons of Faith waft through the air, Brown perceives not his faith being lost, but that of his wife's just as he views the evil purpose of Goody Cloyse and Deacon Gookin. Yet, despite his sanctimony, he becomes "a distrustful, if not a desperate man from the night of that fearful dream" as his inner self looks into his corrupted heart and feels the "loathful brotherhood by the sympathy of all that was wicked in him."

Young Goodman Brown's night at the black sabbath elicits his underlying motives to create illusions to justify his Calvinistic indoctrination about the concept of total depravity. It is from this concept that Brown's Puritan gloom emanates; it is from this concept that no deeply thinking mind is completely free, Hawthorne seems to say.

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