March 21, 2014
Innocence of Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown
Many instances in life we encounter folks that tend to put a certain twist into their lives by alternating subtle characteristics that may then change your perception of the individual. It’s done by many people to change their appearance or to cloak their alternate personalities. Often writers may also use this technique on characters in their stories to put an interesting twist on their plots, later to reveal or conclude their stories with the revelation of their true nature. In Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne we see this significant “Innocence” twist in the characters of the story. He gives the characters names that allows the reader to assume that they possess certain qualities similar to those of an angelic society carved out of late 1600’s America. As we conclude the story we see the true nature of the characters as well as their ancestors and in a whole the regional society as well as the evils that existed underneath the facade built around the Puritan sect.
The story is set in the New England town of Salem, Massachusetts. Hawthorne reveals the whereabouts early on in the story when the other traveler in the woods tells Goodman Brown “I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem.” During the 1670’s Puritans where the dominant group of people in this region, they were strict followers of Calvinism that migrated from England. Under the Puritan vision of Catholicism, they believed that “Human beings were depraved sinners. God had chosen a few people for salvation. The rest of humanity was condemned for damnation. But no one really knew if he or she was saved or damned.” People & Ideas: The Puritans. PBS.PBS, n.d.Web 09 Mar.2014. According to Hawthorne, everyone in Salem appeared to be good, or pure in nature and virtue. Towns people are described as the Good Deacon and the Faithful wife or the Goody this or the Goody that. But reality comes into play the moment Goodman Brown enters the forest.
As Goodman Brown enters the dark forest he encounters the devil disguised as an older version of himself, He carries with him a staff with a serpent engraved onto it and offers it to Goodman, which he refuses. Now, here is the first example of innocence in this story. “Goodman Brown recognized a very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser” Goody Cloyse is Goodman’s ideal Puritan, and as her name suggest, a good person in the town of Salem. But wait! She converses with the devil as they are old friends, laughing foolishly and even taking his wicked staff to complete her journey. Say it isn’t so.
Next we encounter the minister and Deacon Gookin, two highly religious and heads of the community in their little town. “When the minister spoke from the pulpit with power and fervid eloquence, and with his hand on the open Bible, of the sacred truths of our religion, and of the saint like lives” and “Old Deacon Gookin was at domestic worship, and the holy words of his prayers were heard through the open window”. Hawthorne next portrays these two leaders of this society as innocent to the naked eye. As that is what the town is made to portray them as. But the night…