The Inner Evil In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

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Author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, believed that “no man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true” (“Nathaniel Hawthorne Quotes”). He expresses this ideology in the short story “Young Goodman Brown.” Here, the main character’s faith is tested by the Devil himself. The Devil shows Goodman that even the most pious members of the community follow him when they are alone. The author alludes to the thematic idea that everyone has his or her own inner evil through the unique setting, the inner conflict expressed by the protagonist, and the irony and symbolism behind the characters’ names and attributes. Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4,…show more content…
Facing persecution in Europe, the Puritans came to America in order to create a society that lived according to the Bible’s demands. They were a separatist group who believed in purifying the Church of England by eliminating all aspects of Catholicism, like the Pope, for instance (“Puritan New England; Plymouth”). They also believed in predestination. This means that God chose whether or not a person would be saved or condemned at birth. However, the Puritans did not know whether God chose them to be saved or condemned, therefore, they lived through strict policies laid out in the “Covenant of Works” and the “Covenant of Grace.” The “Covenant of Grace” declares that “nothing people do can erase their sins nor earn them a place in heaven.” Consequently, the “Covenant of Works” states that “God’s elect must do good works…to earn their salvation” (Henretta). Because of the religious beliefs in this area, when Goodman leaves for his journey, he tells his wife to “Say thy prayers… and go to bed at dusk, and no harm will come to thee” (Hawthorne 1122). He believes that Faith, his wife, is so pure that she must be one of God’s chosen elite and is predestined for Heaven. So, he gives her the advice to pray and “go to bed at dusk,” which would prohibit her from participating in negative activities. This advice goes hand-in-hand with the concept laid out in the “Covenant of Works.” The Puritanism in the region also…show more content…
For example, the Devil in the story is described as “bearing a considerable appearance to [Goodman Brown]” (1123). Goodman’s striking resemblance to the Devil symbolizes the darkness he sees in himself and his own guilt for questioning his faith. The story also contains an ironic element. On the Devil’s path, there is a woman “whom Goodman Brown recognizes as a very pious and exemplary dame, [Goody Cloyse], who had taught him his catechism in his youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser, jointly with the minister” (1124). It is ironic that even those that preach the word of the Lord walk with the Devil. There is also irony in the fact that Faith, Goodman’s wife who symbolizes his own faith, also follows the Devil. At the beginning of the story, Faith is described as having “pink ribbons [on] her cap” (1122). These initially symbolized her innocence and purity, however when Goodman finds these ribbons astray in the forest, it symbolizes Faith’s leaving of virtuousness (“Young Goodman Brown”). In conclusion, the short story “Young Goodman Brown” effectively produces a complex, historical setting, an internal battle within the protagonist, and incorporates ironic and symbolic characters, all while conveying the motif of inner struggle. Nathaniel Hawthorne proved his point of man being unable to act one way alone and another way in the presence
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