Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Depiction of the Puritan Beliefs in Young Goodman Brown
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown illustrates the timeless struggle within man to choose between living a righteous life, characterized by sacrament and devoutness, and living an evil one, which is open to all kinds of decadence and wrongdoing. Hawthorne’s premise spreads throughout the story as it beginning in the village of early Salem down to its dark conclusion. The road taken by Young Goodman Brown, which is dark and narrow road towards his voyage to the midnight assembly in the woods, reminds the readers of man’s freedom to decide whether to take the road to a virtuous life or take the path leading to perdition. Hawthorne’s work teaches the self-righteous seeker of salvation to be on guard in case he falters.
Goodman Brown is already three months married to a young woman named Faith; still Young Goodman Brown is firm in his decision to attend the unholy spiritual union within the forest. He hesitates at first at the thought of his wife but thoughts of losing her upon seeing her pink ribbon wavering through the trees; he immediately loses his faith, too, and thrusts forward. Young Goodman strongly believes that he belongs to a family of strong devoutness, and that his whole Puritan Salem neighbors are virtuous, devout and worthy of Divine grace as their holiness conveys. Puritan doctrine educated people that all men are totally corrupt and obliges them to constantly test themselves to see that they are sinners and undeserving of The Lord’s Grace. In this kind of religion, the believers submissively acquaint themselves about the negative aspects of their being human rather than recognize the gifts they already acquire. This is a depiction of distrust, which has a direct influence on early American New England and its people. Hawthorne portrays this ideology in the character of Goodman Brown, as what many historians and writers did in their works (McCabe).