Student Question

What lesson on the dangers of being judgmental do "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "Young Goodman Brown" teach?

Expert Answers

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In both stories, the main characters put too much emphasis on external or outward appearances. In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the grandmother puts too much faith in her status as a lady. She thinks this—and her money—will protect her. She is careful to dress like a lady for her car trip, even wearing a hat with fake violets. By putting so much emphasis on being a lady, she suggests she is judgmental of people who do not live up to her standards.

When the grandmother and her family are captured by the Misfit and his gang, she tries to use her status as a lady as a bargaining chip, as well as offering the Misfit money. None of this matters at all to him. Nothing she relies on or judges other people by can save her life or soul. Only God's grace can save her soul, as we are led to believe happen when she sees the Misfit, as God does, as her own son. Up until this point, the grandmother's judgmental nature has hindered her from getting close to God. It is only in the last moments of her life when she drops judgment, and, as we would say today, gets "real," that God's grace can pour down on her.

In "Young Goodman Brown," Goodman Brown also judges by externals. He accepts that people in his village, such as Deacon Gookin, the Minister, and Goody Cloyse, who taught him the catechism when he was young, are all good, as their outward positions in the church would suggest. He also thinks his wife, Faith, is completely pure and good. When he discovers, either through a dream or reality, that they are not entirely as good as he had judged them (or possibly evil), this knowledge embitters him. He would have been better off if he recognized earlier in life that all people are a mixture of good and evil. Then he would understand that even if his neighbors are worshipping the devil, they are still loved by God and can still be redeemed by God's grace.

In both cases, we are taught the being judgmental brings bad consequences. It cannot save the grandmother, and it embitters Goodman Brown.

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