The Intricacies Of Faith And Sin In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

Superior Essays
The great-great-grandson of an influential magistrate in the Salem witch trials, Nathaniel Hawthorne was a prominent writer in the nineteenth century who experimented with his own unique writing style to write dozens of short stories for the American audience. “Young Goodman Brown” is one of his most famous stories, in part because of its context; the Salem witch trials are a big part of American history as it was a turning point in the perspective of the Puritan faith. The story is enhanced because of Hawthorne’s genuine interest in the intricacies of faith and sin. Goodman Brown, the main character of the story, is a faithful Christian man coming from a long line of Puritan ancestors. Through Brown, Hawthorne is able to experiment with evils …show more content…
Hawthorne came from a very serious Christian family, and his writing reflects that. He has multiple biblical allusions in “Young Goodman Brown” alone; these include the biblical snakes that signify the devil (421), the different priests and ministers that provide an important role in the common church, and the devil himself (426), who disguised himself as an old man to trick Goodman Brown. The whole story is about a community that falls unfaithful to the hands of the devil and betrays the word of God, and the sin-and-brimstone result that Hawthorne was well known for illustrating made a reappearance when Goodman Brown was struck with a depression and melancholy spell for the rest of his life. Hawthorne used his own experience with depression and illness to help add to the horrible damnation of the wrath of God that betook the protagonist. This background on Hawthorne’s faith and illnesses helps the reader understand where the story is coming from and to get a better grip on the message that is supposed to be taken away. Based on his life experiences alone, the message of the story may have been to encourage or scare people back to the Christian faith or to try and educate people on the motivations and the mentality of the Puritan citizens of Salem during the dreaded witch trials. Hawthorne’s life …show more content…
“Young Goodman Brown” is a story written very plain and vague in style, which is why Richard Fogle, a literary critic, discussed the ambiguity of its goal; “the ambiguity of the conclusions which may be drawn from it” make his stories “more difficult” to understand (432). Fogle’s review of the story’s simplicity very important because it really emphasizes the direction of the story, or rather, the lack of it. He goes on to elaborate on what he decided was best to take away from the story when he says, “Hawthorne poses the dangerous question of the relations of Good and Evil in man [...]” (433) and further that he “wishes to propose [...] that man is primarily evil” (432). Fogle’s perspective on the story is valuable to readers because it helps reinforce aspects of the reader's interpretation by providing a second-hand examination of them. Fogle helps confirm that there is indeed a vagueness to Hawthorne’s writing, but instead of being a flaw, the technique proves itself to be an enhancement to the story. One seemingly complex issue in regards to critics is that many of them have completely different insights into the same piece. Nancy Bunge, another person who lent a critical analysis of Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” to the public eye, discusses the complexity in the simplicity of the Puritan community. The Puritan people

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