Young Goodman Brown
In this extract from “Young Goodman Brown”, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses symbolism, imagery and point of view to depict Goodman Brown’s eventual journey from naivety in man’s purity of faith to recognition of man’s disposition to evil. It reveals Brown’s misplaced faith in man, who is deficient, instead of God. In the dialogue that ensues between the minister and Deacon Gookin, we learn of an impending meeting expecting participants hailing from “Falmouth and beyond... Indian powows” (Hawthorne 26). The geographical listing hints at the far-reaching influence of the devil. By including the Indians, Hawthorne subtly contrasts the inclusiveness of this heathen community versus the exclusivity of the Puritan community. This perhaps also
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Did he really hear the minister and Deacon or is this a figment of his imagination? This uncertainty suggests the ambiguity and relativity of good and evil, truth and deception. All that Brown has previously regarded as good and truth appears otherwise now. The narrator’s point of view in this extract moves into the foreground while Brown recedes into the background. According to Wargo, this switch “showcases the increased detachment of Brown from his moral faith” (Vicky Wargo). At one point, the narrator addresses Brown as the “listener” (Hawthorne 26), Levy contends that such tones of detachment “are measures of the distance he places between himself and the protagonist he regards with a mixture of condescension and pity” (Leo B. Levy, 375). This detachment evokes disdain for his misplaced faith and sympathy to Brown’s struggles.
The conflict in the point of view is also evident. When the narrator declares that Brown is wavering in his faith, “doubting whether there really was a Heaven above him” (Hawthorne 26), he contradicts the narrator by pronouncing “With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” This according to Wargo “alludes to Brown’s moral confusion”.
There are moments when the narrator’s voice and Brown’s thought seems to merge. When a question “Whither, then, could these holy men be journeying ...” is asked, we are unsure who is asking it. This