Evil, Faith, And Redemption In Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown

1215 words - 5 pages

Evil, Faith, and Redemption in Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown

There are many things that go on “behind closed doors” in today’s culture. In
many cases it is not closed doors that conceal what goes on, but the dark. Usually what is
not seen is not considered good. During the time of early America, there was an event
that came to be known as the Salem witch trials. This event has sparked many debates
and many folk tales. Nathaniel Hawthorne writes in a way to show the error of modern
culture. This style allows him to speak to everyone, including his own community. He
does this by using the themes of the story to show the tendencies of modern culture. In
Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” the themes of redemption, the source of evil, and
the power of faith are developed and can be used to show the problems in today’s culture.
The belief of redemption, in modern day culture, bases itself on human
perspective over God’s intervention, and human perspective is how the main character in
“Young Goodman Brown” believed he found his salvation. This is not the actual way to
find redemption. Redemption, according to the Bible, is the payment of sins through the
death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The story begins as a man, Goodman Brown,
leaves to go out to a meeting that turns out to be for witchcraft and finds himself torn
between going to the meeting or deciding to stay at home. Brown wants to go home to his
wife Faith and believes if he goes back he will not be punished for his sins. At first he
comes to a decision to discontinue his trip to the meeting; he later changes his mind and
chooses to move on his path to the meeting and sin. Brown decides to continue because
of the shock he just received when he saw his wife’s hair ribbon fluttering in the wind
and assumes she has gone to the meeting.

After this dreadful night ends, Brown can’t decide if his previous night was a
dream or not. Hawthorne goes on to tell how Goodman Brown believes he finds his
redemption. He states, “…when the family knelt down at prayer, he scowled and
muttered to himself…” (Hawthorne 1095). Hawthorne uses this final passage with a set
of others to show how Goodman Brown found his redemption in reason. He reasons that
everyone is evil, so he must break all communications with the people except his own
family. This is not the path of redemption that the Bible shows, but this it what he
believes to be true. The path that the Bible shows to redemption is to believe that Jesus
died and rose from the grave to conquer the sins of the world. The problem that this
points out in modern culture is a lack of responsibility for sin and that people follow their
own set of rules instead of looking for an absolute truth. This problem is added upon by
other themes in the story.

Evil in modern culture is hidden by the evildoers, much like the town of Salem in
“Young Goodman Brown.” The town of Salem is seen in the...

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