What is your reaction to "Young Goodman Brown"?What is your reaction to "Young Goodman Brown"?
Frankly, I found the story amusing. It resembles some of Chaucer's stories in The Canterbury Tales. What makes it amusing is that Hawthorne represents both the husband and wife of being so insufferably good. The husband even has the name Goodman, and his wife is acting so nice and sweet and good that she seems like a caricature of a perfect housewife. I was also reminded of Al Capp's comic strip L'il Abner. There was a character named (I believe) J. Sweetpants Goodbody. He was a rich philanthropist who had a reputation for being exceedingly good. But every so often he couldn't stand being good anymore, and he used to have his chauffeur drive him up into L'il Abner's country where he would go around shooting people with an enormous shotgun. I think we like to see the dark sides of good people exposed--and this frequently happens. There seems to be a rule that when a person tries to be too good, the dark side of his nature which is repressed in his unconscious will assert itself in a compensatory fashion. C. G. Jung discusses this is his marvelous book Psychological Types. In Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the good Dr. Jekyll tries to eradicate the evil part of himself and finds that the evil part, Mr. Hyde, is too strong for him.
My reaction to "Young Goodman Brown" is as follows. First, when I first read this, I found the style off-putting. If I hadn't had to read this, I would have stopped. That said, I was soon caught up in Brown's action, and in the obvious symbolism of the path. It's impressive how Hawthorne can be so obvious, but so powerful. To have the wife named Faith, so that the husband can think of faith/Faith…that's obvious. At the same time, it works really well.
I found the ending to trickle off a bit—to lack power compared to earlier.
Having read The Scarlet Letter a multitude of times has helped with reading anything new by the greatest of American writers. But, Hawthorne's presentation of the hypocrisy of the Puritans is marvelous and so revealing of the Fundamentalists of today.
What an absolutely intriguing story with its ambiguity! Is this not how faith is at times?