Young Goodman Brown
A.P Language and Composition
4 January 2016
Young Goodman Brown
The story Young Goodman Brown can be interpreted in many ways. One way that it can be seen is in terms of innocence. When a person is innocent they can also be seen as naive. In this story the main character, Brown, is naive. Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author, had an unpleasant past which influences the way the story is written. His ancestors were involved with the Salem Witch Trials, which he was ashamed of, so he changed his last name to avoid the connection. Mentions of his past can be seen throughout the short story, so it is important to have some background knowledge. Hawthorne uses symbols throughout Young Goodman Brown to show that we as humans are born sinners, so it is inevitable that we will lose our innocence at some point and religion will not change that.
To begin, one symbol that is seen is the distinguished people at the alter scene, it is not a coincidence that everyone Brown faces on his journey are the important people like the Deacon or Goody Cloyse. When he sees this he starts to become deterred. For example, in the story it says, “That old women taught me my catechism’ said the young man and there was a world of meaning in this simple context” (Hawthorne 4). Brown feels like his whole life has been a lie, it is hard for him to wrap his head around why people he would have never expected to see were on that journey. Another example that can be seen is on page 4, “It vexed him the more because he could have sworn, were such a thing possible, that he recognized the voices of the Minister and Deacon Gookin” (Hawthorne 4). This sentence is very ironic because earlier in the story when Brown shows his doubt and also expresses his concern about being on the journey by admitting he was ashamed of going on the walk because he did not know how he would be able to face the Minister or Deacon Gookin. Continuing on, the devil also contributes to the start of his downfall when he says:
I have been as well acquainted with your family as ever a one among the puritans… I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker women so smartly through the streets of Salem… brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to and Indian village in King Phillips war. (Hawthorne 2)
He finds out his family, who he thought the world of, were not as great as he thought. They were affiliated with the devil as well. He also learns that if his if his family did not know the devil then the devil would not have known of Brown.