In Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Young Goodman Brown," how does the setting affect the characters and theme?
We learn that the setting of the story is Salem, Massachusetts: a city known for the infamous witch trails that took place there in 1692, trials that resulted in the executions of nineteen innocent men and women and the deaths of several others who perished in jail or as a result of their imprisonment. It is one of the darkest chapters in American history because people turned on their neighbors and friends, accusing them of witchcraft without evidence, the result of hysteria and fear and, perhaps, greed and malice. Rather than just a few people being guilty of wrongdoing, it turns out that a great many people were actually sinful and dishonest. The people in Goodman Brown's community have the appearance of being morally upstanding and righteous individuals, but they are really harboring sinful natures. Even the most upright people are actually working for the devil. This certainly helps to convey that theme that, no matter how sinless we may appear, we are all secretly sinful....
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