How does Hawthorne consider the story a criticism of the village's hypocrisy?Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"

1 Answer | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

A critic of Puritanism, especially that aspect of its creed that retains remnants of Calvinism, Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" is a tale of the woe of the Puritan who believes that his faith will take him to heaven.  For in this belief, Brown is greatly disillusioned.

Brown's disillusion with his Puritanic-Calvinistic beliefs begins when the devil, his fellow traveller claims to be very familiar with Goodman Brown's ancestors,

...I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that's not trifle to say I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartl through the streets of Salem; and it was I that brought your a father pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philip's war.  They were my good friends, both, and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path....

That Hawthorne is critical of Puritanism is apparent when Goodman Brown espies Goody Cloyse coming along the path and hides so that she will not ask who is his companion.  Brown, of course, is shocked that Goody is so familiar with the devil,  even taking his staff on which to ride to the black mass, soon followed by Deacon Goodkin.  If Goody has taught Brown his catechism, and the narrator has added, "there was a world of meaning in this simple comment," then her teachings teach the way to the devil, not to heaven.

With he learns that Deacon Gookin and the "good old minister" are also in league with the devil, Brown doubts his original conception of his faith.  Surely it must be diabolic, rather than divine.  During his gloom of doubt, Goodman Brown's wife appears.  When Faith's ribbons fall from the clouds above,  Brown cries, "My Faith is gone!"  But, he makes another grand effort  'Faith! Faith!...look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one." But, when Faith comes to him, Brown looks away from her sternly without speaking.  For, he realizes that his Faith will not lead him to heaven.It is this epiphany which causes Brown to look upon the stay at home,

In his essay entitled, "Hathorne's Young Goodman Brown :  An Attack upon Puritanic Calvisism, Thomas E. Connolly writes,

It is this awakening to the full meaning of his faith which causes Young Goodman Brown to look upon his minister as a blasphemer when he teaches "the sacred truths of our religion."  For, there is little else but misery.

We’ve answered 318,912 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question