An Allegory of Disillusionment in Colonial SalemIs Hawthorne showing how the Salem colonists--personified by Young Goodman Brown--began their settlement with good intentions and naivete but then...

An Allegory of Disillusionment in Colonial Salem

Is Hawthorne showing how the Salem colonists--personified by Young Goodman Brown--began their settlement with good intentions and naivete but then collapsed into fear and paranoia--of which the Salem witchcraft trials were an example?

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I think Brown is overwhelmed by learning of the sinfulness of others, but is unable to reconcile that same evil in himself, and therefore he is a miserable human being for the rest of his days. If he could accept the "reality" of the mix of good and bad that makes him a normal or typical human being, then he would likely be able to forgive or understand those around him for what they are -- typical people. 

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I don't think the point of the story is that so much as it is the hypocrisy of the Puritan people. The Puritans, as represented by Goodman Brown, are righteous and unforgiving of others, even the face of their own sinfulness. Brown went to the woods that night knowing full well that he was on an "evil mission," and even though he ultimately does reject the Devil's offer, he isn't that much different from all the others, yet he can never forgive them or come to a understanding about their shared human capacity to have a mix of good and bad in them.

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quentin1 | (Level 2) Honors

Posted on

I don't think the point of the story is that so much as it is the hypocrisy of the Puritan people. The Puritans, as represented by Goodman Brown, are righteous and unforgiving of others, even the face of their own sinfulness. Brown went to the woods that night knowing full well that he was on an "evil mission," and even though he ultimately does reject the Devil's offer, he isn't that much different from all the others, yet he can never forgive them or come to a understanding about their shared human capacity to have a mix of good and bad in them.

Hey there lmetcalf, thanks for the good reply. So, to continue your line of thinking, do you think that Young Goodman Brown can be read as a story about Young Goodman's initiation into the nastiness and wickedness of human nature? He seems to discover "sinfulness" in others, but do you think ultimately he discovers it in himself?

In The Scarlet Letter, Hester's sin, and the red A which symbolizes it, gives her the ability to see sin in other people's souls. I think what Hawthorne means is that Hester's experience has made her lose her faith in human nature--in others and herself. Do you think Brown has had a similar experience? We probably don't know enough about Young Goodman Brown to make a complete comparison, but it's interesting to speculate. Does the story end so darkly because he's gained self-knowledge, or because he can't accept that knowledge? Or both?

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