Puritanism in "Young Goodman Brown"Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a short story that portrays strong puritan influence. This story is an allegory in which everything is symbolic. Puritanism is a religion in that demands strict individual responsibility and strong faith. To understand "Young Goodman Brown" one must have some knowledge of the Puritan faith. Hawthorne uses the literary elements such as setting, allegory, and theme to portray the Puritan religion to the reader. The main setting of "Young Goodman Brown" is in the forest.
The forest that Goodman Brown ventures into is a symbol within itself. In the days of the Puritans the townspeople were forbidden to go into the forest because it was believed that evil lurked there among the presence of Indians and witches, who were accused of performing satanic rituals. Goodman Brown even says "my father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him" (198). Another setting in the story is Salem Village, in which the famous, controversial Salem Witch Trials took place. In Salem village many Puritans were sentenced to death due to the townspeople's suspicion that some sort of witchcraft was being practiced in the forest. "Young Goodman Brown" also has many examples of allegory relating to the Puritan religion.
The names of some characters are perfect examples of allegory. Lee 2 The name "Goodman Brown" for example, presents the character as a good, moralistic man that can resist temptation. He is first seen as a moral Puritan man, and after loosing his faith he becomes the opposite. Faith, Goodman Brown's wife's name, gave the impression that she would help Goodman Brown through times of trouble and temptation. Goodman Brown refers to faith several times throughout the story; he cries "with Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!" (201). Faith's name also suggests Goodman Brown's faith in religion.
"Young Goodman Brown" has a theme of the Puritan religion. Puritanism is known for a somber outlook on life, and a tendency to be immovable. Puritan society finds it difficult to see perfection in it's own members in the same way that Goodman Brown no longer sees good in the people of Salem after the events that took place in the forest. Goodman Brown had a curiosity that made him travel into the forest. His uncertainty of the townspeople's satanic ceremonies, whether he dreamed it or it actually happened, changed his life. The people now are seen as corrupt in the eyes of Goodman Brown with a seed of doubt now planted in his mind.
The negative events seen through the eyes of Goodman Brown are summed up with "for his dying hour was gloom" (206). The setting of "Young Goodman Brown" shows evil perceptions the Puritans had about the forest and gives some historical background to Puritanism through Salem Village. The Allegory was used to show Goodman Brown's loss in Faith. The theme of secret sin shows the cause and effect of Goodman Brown's downfall. Through the Lee 3 background information of the Puritans "Young Goodman Brown" can be better understood.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Eds. X. J.
Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7 th ed. New York: Longman, 1999. 196-206.