“Well; she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.” (387)
“Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a short story that is heavily influenced by Puritan culture and history, especially the Salem Witch Trials. The story deals a lot with the theological concept of “original sin” and dabbling in sin as well as its effect on the body and the society in which it inhabits. Hawthorne implies that people have an insatiable interest in sin which drives their actions. While people may innocently engage in these types of journeys every day, the point is not to condemn but to make the reader aware that while we point a finger we should be pointing back at ourselves as well.
There are many symbols that move the piece forward and compel the reader to insert themselves into the story and reflect upon their own actions. One major symbol is found within the summative character of young goodman Brown’s wife, Faith. Hawthorne characterized Faith and used her name throughout the text in such clever ways that it is hardly clear when Hawthorne is referring to the wife or to the noun/verb faith. The quote exemplified above shows how Hawthorne uses Faith as a personification for the noun/verb “faith”.
Young goodman Brown goes on a journey in the “wilderness” and strolls with the devil. Brown acknowledges the beauty and value of his Faith (faith) but feels to continue on in his journey, rationalizing his decision with his intent to “cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven” after the night was done. There seems to be very little malice, just curiosity, that drives his journey into the woods but the fact remains that he could not help himself. That much was clear for young goodman Brown.
Some interesting articles that have influenced my thinking about Young Goodman Brown:
- The Forest of Goodman Brown’s Night: A Reading of Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’ by Reginald Cook
- “The Minister’s Black Veil”: Symbol, Meaning, and the Context of Hawthorne’s Art by W. B. Carnochan
- Explaining Mental Illness: Theology and Pathology in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Short Fiction by Eric Goldman
- Sensational Designs by Jane Tompkins