Is there any aspect in "Young Goodman Brown" that quaiifies this short story as a work of Romanticism?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Known principally as a Dark Romanticist, Nathaniel Hawthorne has elements of Romanticism in his story "Young Goodman Brown":

  • Exploration of the supernatural realm with an emphasis upon the inner experience

That Hawthorne's is a spiritual tale is obvious from the allegorical names and the symbolism in his narrative. Goodman Brown's name indicates that he is the head of his household, but with "Young" before it, there is the connotation of innocence and experience along with the other denotation of "good." His wife Faith certainly possesses an allegorical name, and Goodman's remark after his experience at the black mass when the pink ribbons of Faith fall through the air, "My Faith is gone," becomes a double entendre of the apparent loss of his wife as well as the loss of his optimistic spiritual beliefs and innocence.

Against these losses, Goodman becomes "grave" and "hoary" in his retention of the darker aspects of Puritanism; namely the Calvinistic belief in man's innate depravity and the realization of the full and terrible significance of Puritanism in which most people were damned for eternity. Evidence of this appears after his experience in the primeval forest, when the family kneels and prays because

...he scowled and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his wife, and turned away.

Like Adam, Young Goodman Brown suffers a tremendous fall from innocence.

  • Emphasis on the inner experience

Hawthorne's narrative is mainly concerned with the journey of the young innocent Brown, who encounters the elder traveler whose staff appears snakelike. Along the way, Brown is shocked to discover his former catechist, Goody Cloyse, who identifies the old man as the devil and herself as a witch. But Brown grabs a tree as Goody flies upward and with a faintness of heart, he cries,

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

Nonetheless, after his experience in the forest in which he witnesses people he believed to be good Christians attending the black mass, Brown exclaims,

"My Faith is gone!....There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given."

Other aspects of Dark Romanticism that can be applied to this story and the passages referenced are:

  • Signs and symbols in human events
  • The mystical and melancholy aspects of Puritanism that the Romanticists ignored 
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Young Goodman Brown

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