February 17, Broken Innocence, Broken Humanity in Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” Faith that is strong can conquer all challenges and sin, and without it, a Christian.s life is lost forever. Nathaniel Hawthorne creates a dark story about good and evil in “Young Goodman Brown.” Goodman Brown leaves town for an important meeting and goes into the forest. He witnesses the most horrible events in the forest that changes him forever. Goodman Brown becomes “a stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man” after his experience in the forest because he has lost his innocence when he learns that the devil runs his community, and after which, he gives up his trust in God and humanity.
Goodman Brown becomes stern and distrustful because he can no longer easily believe reality as it is and because he learns that evil reigns in the world. His experiences in the forest, whether they are dreams or reality, have changed his concept of reality. In the forest, dark magic is everywhere, with the devil turning the wet maple branch into a twig that is “strangely withered and dried up” and when he sees the “shape of his own dead father beckoned him to advance” to the devil’s congregation (Hawthorne). These things he saw challenged what is real and what is not. Because Goodman Brown cannot say the difference anymore, he becomes stern when he looks at things and people for nothing is what it appears to be. Furthermore, aside from distrust in reality, he no longer trusts humanity. The congregation makes it clear that the devil rules the world. The devil says: “Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness” (Hawthorne). If evil is inside humanity, then he cannot trust people, as well as his own ability to be good. Goodman Brown is stern to himself and the community around him that is filled with evil.
Apart from being stern, Goodman Brown becomes sad because he loses his innocence when he learns that everyone he trusted to be good is evil. In the forest, Brown learns that Goody Cloyse, who taught him catechism, is “old friends” with the devil, while he hears the “the voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin” getting excited for the evil congregation. The community which he thought was a good one is into devil worship. Probably the worst that he experiences is that even his wife has been baptized into devil worship. His Faith is the young woman that everyone he met has been talking about who will receive the devil’s communion. Goodman Brown says: “`My Faith is gone!” (Hawthorne). Faith becomes literally his faith in God and humanity. Without his faith, he is no longer innocent, but darkened with sin and gloom.
Finally, Goodman Brown becomes darkly meditative because he has surrendered his trust to what is good in humanity. Faith, or rather his faith, is his last defense against the devil. When he sees Faith in the congregation, he says that his faith is gone and that “[t]here is no good on earth. and sin is but a name. Come, devil. for to thee is this world given” (Hawthorne). Saying that there is no good on earth is his dark reflection of losing his faith. He calls the devil, “come, devil,” and says that the world is given to him, and it means that he might as well give in to the devil. It is argued that Goodman Brown is the one who destroys his faith in humanity because he gives up his trust in God and humanity, including his humanness.
Hawthorne shows how hard it is to remain faithful in God and humanity with evil surrounding the life of Christians every day. When the devil claims almost the entire community, it is easy to surrender to it as Young Goodman Brown has done. With such surrender, however, Goodman Brown lives an unhappy and distrustful life. To live this way is to die while alive. For no longer knowing happiness, no longer enjoying, accepting, and giving love, is a death sentence from the devil.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” 1835. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.