I read about Nathaniel Hawthorne before reading his short story “Young Goodman Brown.” My knowledge about the author made me feel that this story is very similar to the author’s own Puritan familial history that involves his ancestors’ sin. So it was easier for me to understand the plot and the author’s idea about the story.
Within the story appears a man who is living with his wife in Salem, a Puritan village in Massachusetts. One day, he says goodbye to her and goes to a forest. That affair leads him to change his previous perception of people near him until he dies. He walks into the forest and undergoes a series of strange and terrifying experiences. In the forest, the atmosphere is spooky as if a devil appears and harasses him. Goodman Brown tries to overcome his fear with faith in his mind. While walking on the path, he sees some people, like the minister and Deacon Gookin, who are all religiously influential in the village. He also witnesses an old man, a sort of devil-surrogate that pretends to be familiar with Goodman’s ancestors. He informs Goodman Brown of his ancestors’ misbehaviors done in the witchcraft trial and the Indian War. This information is truly shocking to him, and eventually, the devil-surrogate makes Goodman Brown become gloomy and depressed until he dies. Hereafter, he doesn’t communicate with anyone, even with his lovely wife Faith, which implicates he loses his faith altogether, whether it is religious or not.
In the story, it is very interesting and impressive that the names of each character have multiple meanings. For example, Goodman Brown, the name of the main character, signifies a Puritan who is naïve in his perspective toward the outer world, aside from its traditional meaning of husband. Considering that this story implicates a lot about Puritans and their thoughts, the names are quite informative to understand the story. Also Faith, the name of Goodman Brown’s wife, means the religious belief itself. In this respect, Hawthorne’s representation that Faith seems to show up in the bloody ritual held in the forest tells there is no clear boundary between good and evil. One more thing worth noting is the last part of the plot: Goodman Brown is desperately looking for both faith and his wife Faith at the very moment they are about to convert to being disciples of Evil, and then he miserably loses all of his firm beliefs. Because of these things mentioned above, I like the author’s allegorical way of treating characters’ names.
Psychologically speaking, people may desire so-called ‘evil’ things from their innermost minds. I think his trip to the forest uncovers the psychological reality that human beings can’t be altogether perfect and may be involved with some wickedness.
Still there are some things very curious here. Why does Goodman Brown go into the forest? In other words, what is the real purpose of his errands? Is it a journey for self-discovery? In addition, the most puzzling part of the story is the scene where Goodman Brown goes into the forest and witnesses the shocking ‘Black Mass.’ What is the implication of this terrifying scene? Presumably, these curious issues will lead me into my further exploration of the story.