A Psychological Breakdown: A Radically Changed Personality
“Young Goodman Brown” is a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne that describes a night of Goodman Brown in the forest where he walks with the devil and discovers the truth about evil lurking in the human heart. The events of Hawthorne’s story do not have any supernatural cause. The events are the results of human illusion encountered by people having schizophrenic or bipolar hallucinatory episode. In this paper, the radical changes of Young Goodman Brown’s personality due to hallucination is discussed, first, in his paranoid behavior, then his wrong/mis perception of the devil and his staff, in addition, his illusion about the voices and the evil ceremony in the forest and finally, sudden change in his behaviour after the night.
The beginning of the story Hawthorne introduces us to Young Goodman Brown as he says goodbye to his wife of three months when he plans to go to the forest. He shows an erratic paranoid behavior when Faith asks him to stay. He replies, “of all nights in the year this one must I tarry from thee” (Hawthorne 242). He keeps on emphasizing he had to go for a walk in the dark forest. He promises her that this was the last time he is going. As if he has made such promises before. He keeps on stressing that this is the night he has to go which is a sign of people having psychological issues. Not only they are obsessed with what they think they should do, but also they have to do it. He drove along the dreary and darkest road. The forest trees seemed gloomy to him and the driving path to be narrow and creepy. As a matter of fact, this type environment is proven to be a cause of nervous breakdown and hallucination. (Wikipedia) Correspondingly Goodman Brown’s paranoia heightens and he starts perceiving shadowy figures in the woods and people following him. In the text it is mentioned,
It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude. "There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree," said Goodman Brown to himself; and he glanced fearfully behind him as he added, "What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!" (Hawthorne 242)
His fear of evil conceals him at that moment and he starts to think the devil is behind him. He being a ‘puritan’ it is possible for Goodman Brown to fear he is going to lose himself to the devil. Again, there is mention about Goodman Brown’s hallucinating devilish Indians because of his strong xenophobia.
Young Goodman Brown’s perception about the devil and his staff also shows signs of his paranoia. When he enters the forest the devil figure beholds suddenly as if arising from thin air. He had decent clothing. He said he was waiting for Goodman Brown. His sudden appearance frightens Goodman Brown though Brown expected the...