Essay on Young Goodman Brown

Submitted By mpstove
Words: 1246
Pages: 5

Megan Stover
Monsters Lit
Dr. de Rosset
February 25, 2015
CPO #1845
The Faithful and the Despairing
The irony and transitions of cognitive dispositions in Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a haunting tale about a man named Goodman Brown’s journey and fall to dejection, despair and cynicism. Set in a puritan town in New England, the plot begins with Goodman’s departure from his pure wife, Faith, and entry to the woods—a place widely believed to be the dwelling place of evil. With an air of secrecy and vast curiosity, Goodman leaves his wife for the night and ventures to meet a fellow traveller, who we find out shortly is no other than the devil himself, dressed in the form of Goodman’s own grandfather. Through conversation with the fiend, who is identified most often by his staff “which bore the likeness of a great black snake”, Goodman gains knowledge (2). Much of the transformation seen in Goodman Brown throughout the story is based upon the gaining of knowledge and subsequent resignation—the moving from assumption and naivety to intimate knowledge of nothing other than the darkness writhing in the hearts of those around him. This is first introduced by learning about his family history, his father and grandfather, who were well acquainted with the fiend, who claims, “They were my good friends, both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily after midnight” (2). The fiend continues to tell of deacons and court members, all well acquainted to himself, to which Goodman Brown expresses disbelief and shock. Goodman has had darkness articulated to him, and responds quite cognitively, but not on any emotive levels. As this conversation closes, Goodman is confronted with Goody Cloyse, the elderly woman who catechized him in the church, self-proclaimed old friends with the devil in their midst. Goodman is again shocked by this knowledge, but soon comes to resign himself to not continue on this literal path of darkness. “What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil when I thought she was going to heaven: is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith and go after her?” Goodman poses, not moving forward or away from the evil down the road (4). He very clearly refers to the devil at this time as ‘friend’, a term used of his father, grandfather, and Goody. We see in this interaction the progression of comfort and intimacy he has gained with the devil already, as well as how the relation he has to this friend of the devil is reflected in his response. As he sits, he thinks of “good old Deacon Gookin” and his wife Faith, desiring to please them and meet them in all their piety with a clear conscience come morning. He resigns to ignore the surprising evil in Goody Cloyse, but to look forward and be spurred to purity by example and admiration of those he holds most dear. As he is thinking about this, two figures come riding up. They reveal themselves to be no other than the minister and Decon Gookin himself. In response, Brown is struck in a different way, he “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. He looked up to the sky, doubting whether there really was a heaven above him”(5). The lesser of the two pure figures held in Goodman’s mind has been revealed as evil. This was cause for great grief, but Goodman holds to the purity of his dear wife, crying out after this account, “With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!”(5). Staring at the sky, Goodman sees a great black cloud, implied to be carrying the hosts of townspeople—pious and otherwise. In the midst, he hears none other but his dear wife. He yells for her with “grief, rage, and terror” and is met with a scream and one of the pink ribbons worn in her hair—its symbolism of innocence consistently juxtaposed with its deeper hues being representative of