Does the narrative suggest anything about religion and its value in the story "Young Goodman Brown"?

1 Answer | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In his short story "Young Goodman Brown," Nathaniel Hawthorne criticizes Puritan Calvinistic beliefs, suggesting that that they are more diabolic than divine.

Goodman, as his name suggests, feels that he is a strong Christian and his friends are, as well. However, his trip with the devilish character, whose staff resembles a serpent, effects great changes in Brown's confidence in the sanctity of his soul and that of others. When, for instance, he witnesses Goody Cloyse, his catechism instructor, identify the traveler with Brown as "the devil" and then disappear, but later is heard talking with Deacon Gookin above him about the night's forthcoming ceremony of the black mass, he is greatly disturbed. Then, he hears the voice of his wife, and he shouts desperately, "Faith!"

Disillusioned after having succumbed to an impulse to follow the path of evil, Goodman Brown perceives only the depravity of man after he discovers that the "good old minister," Goody Clyse, and Deacon Gookin are consorting with the devil. Further, the "black clouds of doubt" cover him after the pink ribbons of Faith fall through the air. Confronted with only the belief now in the depravity of man, Goodman becomes cynical about meriting salvation after hearing the words of the celebrant of the black mass,

Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. 

Henceforth, believing only in the depravity of mankind, Goodman Brown becomes a "sad, darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man...." who is cynical and without faith.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,967 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question