What's the theme of "Young Goodman Brown"?

The theme of "Young Goodman Brown" is humanity's weak and corruptible nature. Goodman Brown lives in Salem with his aptly-named wife Faith, whose religious conviction assures Brown that she will be safe while he meets with the Devil. Brown's faith falters when he sees Goody Cloyse, his catechism teacher, speak with the Devil. In the end, Brown's faith hinges entirely on those around him: as soon as he realizes that his friends and family are sinners, he loses all faith in humanity and joins in the Black Mass. He spends the rest of his life suspicious of everyone around him, ashamed of his weakness.

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The theme of “Young Goodman Brown” is the fragility of human spirituality.

Nathaniel Hawthorne frames his short story as an allegory , and the names of the two main characters, Goodman and Faith, immediately reinforce the religious undertone. Hawthorne uses seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts as the setting for many...

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The theme of “Young Goodman Brown” is the fragility of human spirituality.

Nathaniel Hawthorne frames his short story as an allegory, and the names of the two main characters, Goodman and Faith, immediately reinforce the religious undertone. Hawthorne uses seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts as the setting for many of his works, which allows him to critique the Puritans and specifically their teaching of predestination.

After young Goodman Brown encounters the devil and the seemingly dark religious event in the woods, his religious beliefs are clearly shaken. The woods are described as dark and unfamiliar, which ultimately confuses Goodman, as he cannot determine if the events in the woods are reality or a dream state.

This mirrors the relationship between the pious and their beliefs, as deeply religious people must submit to a profound lack of understanding. In the woods, Goodman witnesses the ostensibly religious townsfolk participating in a blasphemous ceremony. This one night in the woods forces Goodman to lose his faith—literally, in the fact that his relationship is forever changed with his wife, and figuratively, in that he cannot submit to the religious doctrine without questioning it.

Goodman lives the rest of his life unable to truly connect and trust those around him due to his night in the woods, which Hawthorne uses at the crux of his critique on the Puritans, which is that any religion so strict in its adherence as to not allow natural questioning is not viable.

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"Young Goodman Brown" is focused on the concept of sin and how widely ingrained it is within the human condition. The story opens with Brown about to set out into the forest (and even early in the text, Hawthorne reveals that Brown's journey was made with an "evil purpose"), eventually running into the Devil, and being led to a Witches' Sabbath.

Within its pages, Brown has his eyes opened as to the reality of sin and of humanity's propensity towards it. Indeed, Hawthorne describes the scene of the Witches' Sabbath as one where the most respected members of the community and the most wretched, the saints and sinners, are all intermingled.

Additionally, I would say this is a story about a loss of faith. (Indeed, it's not by accident that his wife, who emerges as the pillar upon which his trust in the goodness of others tends to rest, is herself named Faith.) Ultimately, in the story of "Young Goodman Brown," Brown is shown a vision which reveals to him knowledge concerning the darker side of human nature, and he believes so strongly in the truth of that vision that he loses all trust in other people and can only see evil in the world around him.

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Goodman Brown knows that he goes into the forest for evil purposes; this is why he doesn't want to tell his wife, Faith, where he is going or why. He thinks, "Methought, as she spoke, there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done to-night." He wonders if she has some idea that he is leaving for some dark purpose. However, he decides to go anyway and vows that "after this one night, [he'll] cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven." But this isn't really how faith works. Faith, the character, is also symbolic of faith in general: a belief in, trust in, and loyalty to God. It isn't enough to simply believe in God; one must also be loyal to God, and Goodman Brown's plan—to have one last night of sin and then ride Faith's skirts to goodness—is not how it works. Faith takes work, not rest. Therefore, Brown's unfortunate choice illuminates the theme that in choosing to be disloyal to God, no matter how short-lived one intends that disloyalty to be, one forsakes God.

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“Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a story meant to leave its readers with more questions than answers. The story may be an allegory or may simply be the memory of a dream. The "good man" leaves behind "faith" to travel into a dark forest at night to attend some sort of service associated with the Devil. He is ashamed to be seen by fellow villagers, many renowned for their piety, including the woman who taught him his catechism, members of his family, notable preachers, and even his own wife Faith.

These encounters suggest a major theme of the story,  that the impulse towards evil is universal, lurking in even the most pious and good people, and that one cannot judge people truly based on one's own perceptions, because one cannot see into actions they do in private or into their hearts. 

 

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The main message of the story Young Goodman Brown, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is the fight between good and evil under the scope of detouring from one's faith and succumbing to the evils of life.

Throughout the story, Hawthorne exposes the natural weakness of human nature, and the vulnerability of the human soul to fall into temptation: Nobody, not even the very GOOD-man brown, is excluded from becoming exposed to evil. This is despite of what you deem to be your faith, or in what practices you incur to avoid falling into sin. The story clearly shows that religion, spirituality and a life of righteousness does not preclude complete protection from evil. Evil is everywhere, and anybody could become its victim.

Just like young Goodman Brown left his wife, Faith, and embarked in the dark road through the forest, individuals can deviate and end up in a dark road away from a life of righteousness. 

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