Characterization in “Young Goodman Brown”
The dialogue, action and motivation revolve about the characters in the story (Abrams 32-33). It is the purpose of this essay to demonstrate the types of characters present in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” whether static or dynamic, whether flat or round, and whether protrayed through showing or telling.
There are only three well-developed, or three dimensional characters, in this short story, and they are the protagonist, Goodman Brown, and his wife, Faith, and the fellow-traveller or the devil. Faith is, of course, less well developed than her husband; much of her development comes from inference rather than from action,dialogue and explicitly expressed motivation as in the case of Goodman Brown.
From the very outset of the tale, Goodman is a person of action: “YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN came forth at sunset, into the street of Salem village, but put his head back, after crossing the threshold, to exchange a parting kiss with his young wife.” The reader sees him develop emotionally even as he walks away towards the woods:
So they parted; and the young man pursued his way, until, being about to turn the corner by the meeting-house, he looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him, with a melancholy air, in spite of her pink ribbons.
"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! 'twould 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."
Everything about Brown is shown to us because the narrator is omniscient in his case, but very limited in knowledge in the case of the other characters. For example, in the passage cited immediately above, the narrator is actually presenting the very thoughts of the protagonist; this is done on numerous occasions in the tale. This contributes to the development of Goodman
Brown as a very, very round character. As Goodman meets the fellow-traveller in the woods, he sizes him up, along with his cane:
It was now deep dusk in the forest, and deepest in that part of it where these two were journeying. As nearly as could be discerned, the second traveller was about fifty years old, apparently in the same rank of life as Goodman Brown, and bearing a considerable resemblance to him, though perhaps more in expression than features. Still, they might have been taken for father and son. And yet, though the elder person was as simply clad as the younger, and as simple in manner too, he had an indescribable air of one who knew the world, and would not have felt abashed at the governor's dinner-table, or in King William's court, were it possible that his affairs should call...