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Young Goodman Brown Critical Analysis

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Nathaniel Hawthorn’s “Young Goodman Brown” has peaked academic inquiry time and time again. Hawthorn spins the tale of a young puritan man who treks into the dark forest, curious, but ill at ease. He travels to participate in a strange meeting in the woods. Upon the path Goodman Brown encounters a man “in grave and descent attire” (Hawthorne 66), waiting for him. Unsettled, but not entirely surprised, Goodman Brown continues down the path with the traveler, who is later revealed to be the devil himself. During their journey, they encounter several high-standing individuals from Brown’s village, all headed to meet the Devil. Brown becomes more discontent with every step, and eventually attends the Devil’s gathering as well, only to turn away…show more content…
In their article titled “‘Young Goodman Brown’: The Close Lane” they state that this theme is portrayed by the actions of Goodman Brown. Zuraikat and Ezghoul suggest that the views of the Puritans were radical, and prompted hatred and mistrust. They state: “With this radicalism, especially against accepting the other, Puritanism becomes the subject of criticism by many American writers including Nathaniel Hawthorne himself” (Ezghoul 2). Rather than a betrayal, each obstacle Goodman Brown meets is a test of faith. The proof of Hawthorne’s criticism of the Puritan way, according to the “Close Lane” article, is the ill fate of Brown after his adherence to the harsh principles of the Puritan religion. His refusal to stray from Puritan guidelines ends in his misery and self-exclusion from his fellowman. “Hawthorne’s satire of Puritanism,” the article concludes, “is plainly seen in the terrible end of Brown as ‘A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man’” (Ezghoul…show more content…
Rather than the story of an infallible Puritan, Hawthorn’s tale spoke of a journey of lost faith through betrayal, and held an underlying tone of caution, not condemnation. It’s more a cautionary tale against haughtiness than a direct attack on Puritanism. It’s by Brown’s own volition that he separates himself from the villagers at the end of the story. The strict adherence to Puritan guidelines is broken by Brown as soon as he leaves Faith behind. He has already proven himself unworthy before even entering the forest, a choice that he consciously makes. This disproves his use of an unwavering Puritan symbol. Overall, Hawthorn’s “Young Goodman Brown” seems to portray the tale of a man regaining faith, yet losing friends, rather than that of an infallible symbol whose elevated ways stand as a criticism to Puritanism. Opposite the analysis of Ezghoul and Zuraikat, John B. Humma considers it a short story lacking in effort and an artistic
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