What's really creeping me out about Young Goodman Brown is that at least two of the characters present at the putative witches' sabbath are actual people from the Salem witch trials. Goody Cloyse, the pious old woman, was tried in 1692 for witchcraft and sentenced. Another character, Martha Carrier, was tried and hanged for witchcraft in 1692 Salem.
Hawthorne, most people agree, uses Young Goodman Brown to represent the 17th century New England Puritan mindset. He seems to be linking Brown's loss of faith with the violence of the witchcraft trials that followed--even though he doesn't actually describe those trials or violent episodes. My guess is Hawthorne--the master of ambiguity--chose to focus on the psychology of guilt that led to the violence.
What makes the tale scary to me is that the frightening tone of the story has real-life parallels that are more shocking than any fiction could be. What do you all think?
I agree. It’s hard to imagine that something this terrible happened in our country. The Salem Witch Trials are a source of national shame. However, I think Hawthorne’s point was that this kind of thing happens again and again. It could happen anywhere. Consider the McCarthy hearings, Japanese internment camps, and the persecution of Muslims after 9/11.