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Using the character of Young Goodman Brown, examine how Nathaniel Hawthorne probes into...

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raysbaby | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 29, 2012 at 11:37 AM via web

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Using the character of Young Goodman Brown, examine how Nathaniel Hawthorne probes into the dark recesses of human psychology.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 29, 2012 at 1:53 PM (Answer #1)

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Psychologically, Young Goodman Brown travels one night from belief in what the minister preaches on Sabbath--

sacred truths of [his]religion, and of saint-like lives and triumphant death and of future bliss

--to the knowledge of his Calvinist tenets of "misery unutterable" and a comprehension of the full meaning of his Puritan faith.  In the beginning of Hawthorne's story, Brown displays unwittingly his Calvinistic depravity as he agrees to walk with the devil. Yet, he deludes himself by believing that he is among the elect who are chosen for heaven:

"...after this one night I'll cling to her [Faith's] skirts and follow her to heaven"

As he traverses the path with the devil, however, Brown learns of the hypocrisy in his family; for, when he mentions his ancestors, declaring them good Christians, the devil chuckles and responds that he has been well-acquainted with Young Goodman's relatives and would "fain be friends with you for their sake." Farther into their journey, Goodman is shaken by the sight of Deacon Gookin and Goody Cloyse, who has taught him his catechism and been his "moral and spiritual adviser."  Thus, Hawthorne, as narrator, suggests that Young Goodman Brown has been taught about evil and depravity.  Goodman and the devil continue to walk on the path, but Goodman tries to hide from himself his "guilty purpose" for coming to the black mass. Continuing on his path, Brown cries out,

"With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!"

But Faith is already at the black sabbath, lost in the depravity, and not awaiting his return. It is, then, in a torturous epiphany at which Young Goodman Brown admits to his Calvinistic sentencing.  In his essay "Hawthorne's 'Young Goodman Brown': An Attack on Puritanic Calvinism," critic Thomas E. Connolly contends, 

Goodman Brown did not lose his faith; he learned its full and terrible significance.

Goodman Brown moves from trust in his faith and a belief in his being part of the elect to the knowledge that there is little but misery in store for him in his Calvinsitic depravity, a state which leaves him nothing with which to merit salvation.

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