"Young Goodman Brown," discuss the narrative in relationship to the conflict."Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nathaniel Hawthorne's biographer, Hyatt H. Waggoner, wrote,

Hawthorne continued to note in himself, and to disapprove, feelings and attitudes he projected in..."Young Goodman Brown." 

Waggoner also noted Hawthorne's tendency not only to study others with cool objectivity, but to study himself with almost obsessive interest.  Thus, the parallels between Hawthorne, who dwelt with Puritan gloom and his protagonist Young Goodman Brown are certainly obvious.  Brown, under the overriding shadow of the Calvinistic/Puritan gloom and conviction of the innate depravity of man, challenges his faith--"Faith kept me back a while"--as he accompanies the old man with the crooked staff to the forest primeval, perhaps in reality Goodman's darker side, where a black mass is to be celebrated and new inductees to be initiated.  As "he of the serpent" accompanies him, Brown is confronted by his catechism teacher, Goody Cloyse, and he sees the Deacon Gookin also on their way to the dark forest.  Like Hawthorne, his narrator, Brown challenges the Puritan beliefs in his adventure.  Yet, as the traveller hints at his recognition of the darkness of Goodman's soul, Brown claims his innocence and goodness repeatedly. 

It is this conflict of guilt and rebellion that leads Hawthorne's character into the dark forest where he looks

to the sky, doubting whether there really was a heaven above.

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

Once he has witnessed the black mass, Goodman becomes "maddened with despair" as he cries, "My Faith is gone" when he beholds the pink ribbons that have wafted to him.  He rushes "onward with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil," and recognizes the "fiend in his own shape." Whether Brown has fallen asleep or been overcome by his spiritual angst, he awakens to a sudden gleam of light flashing over the field.  The figure in the forest has proclaimed, "Evil is the nature of mankind," and Goodman becomes a "stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man" from this night on.  Indeed, his faith is gone, for he cannot view any with but the most misanthropic perspective. Goodman Brown dies "a hoary corpse" whose "dying hour was gloom" because in his rebellion of accompanying the traveller into the forest primevil he could not shake his controlling feelings of Puritan gloom and Clavinistic guilt.

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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Young Goodman Brown

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