Young goodman brown 5
Young goodman brown 5
All you need is Faith
An obsession with the Puritan religion is what Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with his entire life. Or more accurately, he was obsessed with counter arguing the Puritan's belief that they were without imperfection by creating characters that defied this pompous attitude. "Young Goodman Brown" tells the story of Hawthorne's Puritan everyman. Brown has a naive belief that faith, both his wife Faith, and his commitment to religion, will provide for him, but ironically it is faith, that betrays him.
At the story's onset Young goodman Brown bids farewell to his young wife. The facet of Brown's life that she represents is illustrated by her name "Faith," and in Hawthorne's visual description, "...thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap..." (pg. 75). The image of this woman's "pretty head" being "thrust" out into the street after goodman Brown, as the wind, an unforgiving element of nature, fondles her pink ribbons, sets up the dynamic relationship between nature and the home symbolically. Nature, specifically the wind, the forest, and the darkness symbolize evil and sinfulness. As Brown enters the woods he comments on the gloominess, loneliness, and mystery of the forest (pg. 75). The home, namely Faith and her ribbons, symbolizes the perceived safety and certainty of the Puritan community. Brown intends on "making more haste on his present evil purpose" (pg. 75) so he can return quickly to the village. The community is seen as a safe haven from the sin of the rest of the world.
Not only does Faith represent security but also the innocence and the purity of strength in religion. Brown refers to her as "a blessed angel on earth" (pg. 75) and plans "to cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven." (pg. 75) Faith is in a sense his anchor. She is the matriarch of the home, which is a place of refuge and of purist faith. For Brown, she is the embodiment of the most pure Puritan woman and with her strength and commitment, he is fulfilling his role as a Puritan man. Because of her virtuosity Brown feels guilty about leaving her in order to journey into the woods; he justifies that she does not have any idea what the reason for his journey is or what he intends to do, for she is too innocent. He is also quite sure that even the thought of such an excursion "...'twould kill her to think" (pg. 75) and would never cross her mind as a reason for his absence.
There is certainly irony in the fact that it is the most pious church people who appear at the evil gathering in the forest. At first Brown is presented with the shocking news that he is not the first of his family to venture into the forest with his unknown companion. He has naively believed that up until this point his "father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him" (pg. 76) and his family "have been a race of honest men and good Christians" (pg. 76). Brown is crudely corrected and told that the devil played a hand in both of these men's lives. This news exasperates Brown, as he is being told that his father, the patriarch of his family and, no doubt, the person Brown modeled himself after, lived a lie.
The old woman who passes Young goodman Brown and the devil on the pathway is recognized by Brown when he exclaims "that old woman taught me my catechism!" (pg. 78). The role that she played in Brown’s childhood is significant to him, for she lead him as a child in his commitment to faith. She and the deacon and minister who later pass are the very bastions of goodness on earth to Brown. Hearing them discuss the evening meeting in the woods overwhelms him, "Young goodman Brown caught hold of a tree for support, being ready to sink down on the ground, faint and overburdened with the heavy sickness of his heart" (pg. 79). It is at this point that he cries, "with Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!" (pg. 79), meaning that he holds fast to his belief that he and his wife alone can follow God, even in the midst of sin. It is just the two of them now, having learned of the ways of his ancestors' and the religious figures in his community. But when he hears the scream of his young wife, seeming to come from the sky, and catches a pink ribbon as it falls to the ground, he is finally undone and alone. He cries, "my Faith is gone! ... there is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil! For to thee is this world given" (pg. 79). Now that goodman Brown discovers that Faith has been taken he loses all of his faith and will to fight.
There is an extreme contrast between the first and last page. In the first page the mood is joyous, Brown is in the presence of his wife, who he adores and he is protected by the confines of the town and the community. The mood in the last page is very different; Brown’s entire outlook on life has changed due to his experience in the woods. The question of whether or not the evil gathering actually occurred or was a dream is not given much attention by Hawthorne, he states simply, "be it so, if you will" (pg. 83). Yet the effect the vision has on Brown is profound. He becomes "a stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man..." (pg. 83) afterwards. He no longer knows what the truth is, and feels that he is living in a world of hypocrisy. Brown also faces a realization that he has doubt in his faith. He did not have the strength of will to conquer evil when he was faced with it. Perhaps Young goodman Brown has misunderstood the meaning of "Faith" in his simplicity, expecting to live life free of doubt. Hawthorne's character illustrates the consequences of embracing too pious of an attitude and too simplistic of a view.