A Freudian Reading Of Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

1806 words - 7 pages

A Freudian Reading of Young Goodman Brown

     Incredibly, Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote about concepts that Freud clinically proved later on. Much like Freud, Hawthorne analyzes in his tale Young Goodman Brown the same premises for which Freud is the epitome. Thus, one encounters the issues of the opposite effect that social restraint has on society, despite its purpose, as well as the unconsciousness versus consciousness in this text, together with their crucial parts - the id, superego and ego, and the issues of the libido.

            Freud concluded that many of people's desires and memories are repressed because of the powerful social taboos attached to certain sexual impulses. In cases of extreme repression, the worst outcome happens. Goodman's desire becomes obsession (Hawthorne 144). Hence, disgusted by and despising social restrain due to the Puritan taboos about natural impulses, comes Hawthorne's premise (much like Freud's) that social restraint makes people rebel against their natural instincts later in life. Therefore, different individuals choose the wrong path in life or live restless in imbalance for the rest of their lives with uncertainty. Analogous and pertaining to the previous premise, Goodman Brown's superego overpowers his id, and as a result he manages to resist the diabolical side of life, yet he still lives the rest of his life in a psychological unrest and confusion. Perhaps by restating the ultimate consequence of the tyrannous superego dominating the id, the author tries to make sure once again that the reader comprehends the seriousness of (which underlines) the ultimate negative effect social restrain has on an individual.

            Goodman Brown's journey to the diabolical forest symbolically stands for both a physical and a psychological journey - an exploration of the cognitive mind. The pilgrimage takes place "twixt now and sunrise," as he takes the "dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest" (Hawthorne 375). The entire night might have been just a dream, according to Goodman himself. However, whether a dream or not, the text resembles a high psychological reflection. Tempted by the Devil and driven by the prime psychic force, Goodman starts his journey from the village of Sallem. He leaves the place of light, moral, social and spiritual order and ultimate conformity, and proceeds to the deep dark forest - a tempting environment, as "a place of wild, untamed passions and terrors" of which no human being can avoid visiting at one time or another (Hawthorne 142).

            According to A Handbook of Critical Approaches of Literature, which defines most of the individual mental processes as unconscious, the transformation of the unconscious into conscious material bares a great difficulty in itself as it takes a considerable expenditure of energy. Yet, this process still may never occur. Thus, even though Goodman claims the walk to the forest into where Satan lures him...

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