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Psychoanalytical Criticism Of “Young Goodman Brown”

911 words - 4 pages

Psychoanalytical criticism focuses on the characters, symbols, and images in a literary work to decipher meanings and to gain an insight into the mind of the author. The terminology used is typically Freudian, even though Freud has fallen into disfavor in the world of behavioral sciences. This current disaffection does not, however, invalidate psychoanalytical interpretation of many of the characters and situations that a writer may have intentionally or unintentionally constructed.The story "Young Goodman Brown" abounds with psychosexual imagery. The meeting that Brown hastens to is a thing that must be done at night in the dark, either a liaison of the criminal or sexual variety, which were often one in the same in the eyes of the Puritans. His "pretty young wife", whose "hair is bound with pink ribbons", practically begs him to stay at home that evening for sex, threatening that "˜disturbing thoughts' would trouble her if he were to leave. This type of sexual aggression from a woman would be quite disturbing to a Puritan, yet Brown seems oblivious to her meaning. If one were to suppose that men are basically seeking their mother when they marry, then he is arguably in denial of an unresolved Oedipus complex. Brown asks her to be a "good little girl and say her prayers and go to bed". This may be an attempt to put her back into a position that his ego can accept, without consciously acknowledging her sexual advances. This behavior could also signify his unwillingness to engage in normal sex because he believed it to be sinful, causing an emotional conflict that he could not deal with. His appointment in the forest would thus allow him to avoid the conflict.The man that he meets in the forest is inarguably Satan, who almost universally represents the opportunity to fulfill repressed desires and unlock the id. Brown's observance of the secret dark nature of those people from his town whom he meets in the forest is curiously devoid of revulsion. This would seem to suggest that he is rationalizing his own repressed sexuality and assuaging his feelings of guilt by projecting his own deeply repressed id onto the most respected townspeople, such as Goody Cloys, the catechism teacher, who is portrayed as a witch and seems to vanish with the aid of Satan's staff. The use of a witch image also may signify the evil side of people that his superego refuses to see under normal circumstances. Further discussion with Satan reveals that he has had a relationship with all of Browns' ancestors by recalling some of their more unsavory behaviors, such as the whipping of a Quaker woman through the streets of town. The information that Satan is in...

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