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Q: Hawthrone's Young Goodman Brown ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Hawthrone's Young Goodman Brown
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: hughbert-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 06 Jan 2003 13:39 PST
Expires: 05 Feb 2003 13:39 PST
Question ID: 138407
How does Hawthorne's short story Young Goodman Brown deal with issues
of society vs. the individual?

Request for Question Clarification by hlabadie-ga on 07 Jan 2003 06:07 PST
How long and detailed an answer do you want?


Clarification of Question by hughbert-ga on 07 Jan 2003 12:21 PST
i would just like to know the main point or points. you can write as
much as you want, but i suppose about three paragraphs would probably
be appropriate.

Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 07 Jan 2003 12:52 PST
Dear hughbert-ga;

Please take a look at this link and let me know if it serves as a
meaningful answer to your question. I doubt seriously that anyone
could produce a better summary of the story YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN than
this already provides:

"A view of Young Goodman Brown"
Bert A. Mikosh

Clarification of Question by hughbert-ga on 07 Jan 2003 22:58 PST
I do not need a summary of the story, I need an explanation of how
Hawthorne deals with the idea of society vs. the individual in this
story. This page barely touches on my question - it mostly addresses
good vs. evil.
Subject: Re: Hawthrone's Young Goodman Brown
Answered By: hlabadie-ga on 08 Jan 2003 07:16 PST
"In the midway of this our mortal life,
I found me in a gloomy wood, astray..."

Dante Alighieri, The Comedy, Inferno, Canto 1.1-2
Cary, Henry F., trans., Crown, NY, (ca. 1937)

"As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a
certain place, where was a den; and I laid me down in that place to
sleep; and as I slept I dreamed a dream."

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress, First Part,
Penguin, 1965

First, it is useful to recognize that the story is an allegory on the
model or "The Pilgrim's Progress" or The Divine Comedy". The
characters are given allegorical names, Goodman Brown, Faith, etc.,
signifying that Hawthorne has taken the Christian community as his
social framework. More pointedly, the story is set in Puritan Salem,
familiar territory for Hawthorne, a setting that puts an ironical and
somewhat bitter turn to the allegory. In many ways, the story is an
anti-allegory, a parody of the standard allegory which moves the
central character from a position of despair and degradation through
the vicissitudes of temptation and mortal peril to a joyous eternal
reward in the communion of believers: Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown
starts out from a blissful home, separates himself willingly from his
Faith, and ends in a state of gloomy, isolated Grace, denied even an
happy epitaph.

Hawthorne initially depicts society as superficially well-ordered,
moral, harmonious, and pious, but he soon demolishes this structure,
showing it to be a corrupt, hypocritical sham, as one by one the
pillars of that society are revealed to be hollow impostors, owing
their places to the Devil. Against this rotten edifice, Hawthorne
opposes his protagonist, Young Goodman, a man who has been nurtured
within that society but remains utterly ignorant of its true nature.
So thoroughly has he been fooled by the imposture, that he believes
himself to be departing from the norms of that society when he sets
out to join the Devil. Bed, bride, home, Faith -- society in its
goodness, protect one from harm. It is against this that Goodman
rebels, the solid comforts, the protection, the conformity.

It is one of the marks of Hawthorne's genius that he never elucidates
the cause that has led Goodman to take this path. The ambiguity of the
hero's motives gives the story a greater psychological depth than the
simple allegory would otherwise possess. It also creates a paradox. At
the beginning, the reader knows only that the goodman is leaving his
bride, his bed, his home, his Puritan upbringing, his heart and Faith,
willingly to go to the devil. He is becoming a rebel against all that,
with the hope that the single act of rebellion will leave him free to
ascend to heaven eventually by his Faith, somehow a changed person but
unchanged. Once on that road in the forest, he immediately feels the
threat of his separation from the social security: he imagines that
the uncivilized, indeed the pagan, Indians are waiting in ambush, that
the Devil himself might be at hand. Having met the Devil, he expresses
the desire to return to his own community, yet he is drawn on
unconsciously. It is only when he learns that he is not the rebel that
he believes himself to be, that his father and grandfather were
clients of the Devil, that the best citizens of the colony are among
the Devil's companions, in fact, that he is joining almost the
entirety of the human race in the Devil's company, that Goodman begins
seriously to resist the Devil's solicitations. He is hurried on only
by the irresistible attraction to evil that is natural to humanity and
his rage at the thought of the failure of Faith, but when the moment
of final submission arrives, when all of society stands about him, he
rejects it. Goodman is defined for himself by his desire to be
different from the rest of society. It matters not in the end if that
society is good or evil, only that he is an individual, a rebel.
Ironically, it is the great rebel himself, Satan, who is leading
Goodman to conformity, and against whom Goodman finally rebels. At
last, Goodman returns to society uncertain if all that he has seen has
been a dream, but forever debarred from contentment. He apparently
retains all of the privileges of his position in society -- he has
children and grandchildren, all the material comforts -- yet he is
suspicious of all around him, assuming a cynical and saturnine view of
the society in which he lives.

The lot of the Hawthornian rebel, even if he possesses the benefits of
social acceptance, is not an happy one, for he can take no pleasure in

See also:

The Young Goodman Brown site (Discussions and a link to the text

Another text link:

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