The Notions Of Death And Sin In “Young Goodman Brown”

1090 words - 4 pages

“Young Goodman Brown”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a symbolic journey through a young Puritan man’s soul. The protagonist, young Goodman Brown, treks into the dark and gloomy forest, which can also symbolize a retreat into his own being. As a Puritan, Brown believes he can resist all evil, which led him to feel “justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose” (Hawthorne, 14). On his journey Brown meets a man on the side of the road holding a serpent staff, alluding to a devilish symbol. Unable to resist temptation, this devilish allusion, in a form resembling Brown’s father, lures him deeper into the forest. The deeper he trekked and saw the evil side of his Puritan people, the more he became one with the darkness in his own soul. Hawthorne’s notions of sin and death are represented in the allusion to original sin and the Fall of Man, the hidden sin within his community and the death of Goodman Brown’s own faith.
Original sin and the Fall of Man in this story, take on the perspective of the Puritan or Christian faith. In this context it refers to the temptation in the Garden of Eden which Adam succumbs to, resulting in the idea that evil exists in man; past present and future. The devil tempts him with the forbidden fruit and Adam eats from the Tree of Knowledge. Goodman Brown symbolizes Adam, as Brown’s curiosity out ways his resistance to temptation leading him deeper into the forest. Goodman Brown tries to resist this temptation by stating that “[m]y father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and good Christians” (Hawthorne, 15). The companion claims that he has been acquainted with his family and all the Puritans citing many specific examples of helping them indulge in sinful acts over the years. This is rather disturbing to the naïve Brown. Furthermore, Brown see’s his spiritual advisor who he regards highly, deep in the woods in the dark hours. He learns she is in fact a witch and on her way to the witches’ ceremony. The existence of evil in man from the past and present is now evident to Brown, which will lead to the existence of evil in young Goodman Brown’s future.
Light and dark or good and evil revealed its characteristics in almost all of the characters in Hawthorne’s tale. The companion was perhaps the only one who had one side, evil. Young Goodman Brown’s only experience with his Puritan people was positive and reinforcing to all he believed. For example, Goody Cloyse, is a Christian woman who helps young people study the Bible. Throughout the story it is revealed that she practices magic and attends meetings in the dark hours. There is also the minister, a respectable man in the community, but appears to be a follower of the devil as Brown witnesses at the ceremony in the forest. Goodman Brown regards Deacon Gookin as a very religious man and an important part of his church, but is revealed to follow the...

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