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

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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
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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 woods the night that
Goodman Brown is out going to the witchcraft meeting. Some of Brown’s most respected
townspeople are heard and seen in the woods. Goodman Brown knows what he is doing
is wrong and when he sees the town out there, he knows they are also committing the sin
of witchcraft. Hawthorne even tells that “…a score of the church members of…

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