Discussion Topic

Analysis of Goodman Brown's outlook, state of mind, and the mood in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown."

Summary:

Goodman Brown's outlook is one of growing cynicism and distrust as he ventures into the forest and encounters what he perceives as the hypocrisy and sinfulness of those around him. His state of mind becomes increasingly paranoid and despairing, leading to a mood of dark, foreboding tension that underscores the story's themes of faith, doubt, and the duality of human nature.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "Young Goodman Brown," how did Brown's outlook influence his actions?

Young Goodman Brown's outlook in life is not precisely clear in the story. We know that he is, as the title intends, a good man who is presumably living in a good, healthy environment with a wife that he apparently loves.

His outlook in life could be argued to be a very comfortable one where he is very sure that he can do no wrong, after all, he has never apparently done any wrong before.

For this reason, his actions are completely naive and he is easily trapped in the "forest" of sin and evil. If perhaps he had lived a life of balance he would have not fallen prey so easily to everything he does not believe in.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "Young Goodman Brown," how did Brown's outlook influence his actions?

This is an interesting question. I am not sure that we are given much information about Goodman Brown's outlook on life but it is clear that his action in insisting on going into the woods is part of some last rebellion against good and dalliance with evil before he settles down to become a righteous and spiritual man. Note how as he starts off on his journey he reflects on what a terrible man he is to ignore his wife's plea for him to stay:

"Poor little Faith!" thought he, for his heart smote him. "What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought as she spoke there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight. But no, no; 't would kill her to think it. Well, she's a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven."

Note how allegorically, Faith, Goodman Brown's wife, is exactly that, and so after this one last night of evil, Goodman Brown resolves to "cling to her skirts" and by so doing "follow her to heaven."

Thus perhaps we can infer that Goodman Brown's outlook on life is that he is entitled to one last fling with the Devil before settling down to become a good Puritan and focusing on becoming holy. It is this belief that he is entitled to one last night of evil that leads him into the woods and changes him utterly forever.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does "Young Goodman Brown" suggest about Goodman Brown's state of mind?

An interesting question. It actually suggest very little, largely because it tells the reader many things about his mind very directly. (There's not much left to suggest.) The story tells readers that Goodman Brown is confident (when he feels justified), but then that he is quickly frightened. This blurs his thoughts. When he resumes his walk, we seem acting on habit. We seem him easily amazed, and easily led. All of these are qualities of mind.  The story suggests that in heading into the woods at night, he is abandoning faith as he is leaving Faith (his wife) behind. The story suggests that he was overconfident, and that he is vulnerable as a result. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the mood of "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

Mood refers to the general feelings created for the reader by the text. This story's mood is somewhat eerie and melancholic, even foreboding and tense. The story begins as Goodman Brown leaves his home "at sunset," just before nightfall; he even says his journey "must needs be done 'twixt now and sunrise." The story is set in Salem Village.  Now, nighttime is often associated with mystery, dark deeds, and sinfulness, so it seems pretty shady that he has to do something that can only be done at night. Moreover, most readers have a general knowledge of the terrible witch hysteria that resulted in tragedy for so many in Salem in the late seventeenth century. Therefore, simply beginning the story with these details helps to set the mood. 

Further, the fact that Brown's wife, Faith, is "troubled" with strange dreams and begs her husband to delay his journey foreshadows something terrible. Her anxiety for him and his safety prompts readers to feel a similar sense of apprehension. 

As Brown leaves home, he takes a "dreary road" that is made darker by "the gloomiest trees of the forest." The path is "lonely" as he travels deeper into the forest. Like nighttime, the forest is often associated with evil and/ or temptation, especially in Hawthorne's works, and this is no exception. Brown even thinks, "What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!" Again, this foreshadows the evil waiting for him in the woods, as well as those corrupt qualities within himself that allow him to believe "after this one night, [he'll] cling to [Faith's] skirts and follow her to Heaven." Brown is not planning a late-night prayer session; he is up to something bad, something he knows that he really shouldn't be doing (as a Puritan man), and that something turns out to be spooky and upsetting.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on