Literary items of setting in the Young Goodman Brown story have influence towards the development of plot and character. Setting of a play is a crucial element in terms of establishing direction, feel and structure that a specific story carries. Normally, a reflection of numerous important elements of a work; culture, time, location and tone is determined through setting of the story. Thus, an ambience and emotional connotation within readers is created.
Characters in a story are direct and sure by products of communities and environments in which they live. Young Goodman Brown’s story portrays a paragon of a setting’s significance. It exemplifies the significance of setting as it reflects and applies to the core meaning of the piece. The story’s setting provides historical look into the characters and their lifestyles.
For example, one easily discovers that Brown lives in a puritan society in 17th century from the onset (Crowley 65). Thus, several inferences of the character of Brown can be made. In this essay, I’ve selected the character of Brown who contends with aspects of the past. It illustrates how Hawthorne’s setting and symbolism of the story contributes to the meaning of the entire piece.
Setting of the Story
Gothic elements are used by Hawthorne in the story to make Brown’s experience convincing and interesting. In part, the gothic elements of setting contribute to the story’s intention. The setting of elements is mysterious and this develops conflict in Brown’s mind and builds his character.
The setting of the story as; the time and location of action, dusk and forest, cumulatively assists in the devil destructing Brown’s commitment to Puritanism. The elements of forest and darkness turn to haunt Brown. This increases Brown’s inner problems and fear. Due to fear, Brown begins conceiving evil everywhere along his route through the forest. In other words, the forest as a whole represents a gorge of evil and unconsciousness for Brown (Lynch 64).
With all these devilish elements, the forest at times turns to be part of Brown’s personality. The denser he ventures into the forest, the more he becomes one of his evil. Brown transforms to a devil out of fear as evil exists everywhere. Brown moves too deep into darkness, period of uncertainty and religious clashes throughout his experience.
Application of Symbolism
Hawthorne uses symbolism to create a parallel situation of deeper and indirect references. Besides establishing depth resulting from indirectness, symbols enrich Brown’s experience by deepening the conflict in his mind. In addition, by utilizing a number of symbols, Hawthorne violates the fixed conceptual purpose associated with Brown as a character.
Young Goodman Brown story is quite symbolic. It applies a cluster of symbols which depicts a series of contrasts reflecting both; problems experienced by Brown; and the extent these symbols influence his personality. Dusk and sunrise, for example, indicate two extremes which indicate commencement and end of a journey.
Dusk on one hand, is the period that proceeds darkness and therefore stands for the coming of evil. Dusk, a time between light and total darkness, depicts times of hesitation which Brown begins to experience after meeting the devil.
Further, darkness which is a reflection of evil is purposed to put Brown in real experience of facing evil. Sunrise on the other hand marks the end of the journey. It is a representation of the state of certainty which Brown comes up with by the end of the story. This moment forms clarity in Brown’s belie and attitude towards the village people.
In sum, the story is a Puritanism satire as a belief system that pursues an ideology that deepens and increases divisions. It discards all efforts at establishing any common position among the numerous Christian sects on one hand, and other beliefs on the other.
The aspect of Puritanism, through distrust and doubt encourages possibility of splitting societies over religious issues at the expense of unity and togetherness. It tries to expel those who are not Puritans and those who do not conform and looks upon them as sinners. This past attends negatively on Brown’s personality as he conforms out of fear.
The story offers historical insight into the character of Brown and his lifestyle. For instance, we easily realize that Brown lives in a Puritan society right from the onset. We can view Puritanism in some aspects as unrelenting and biased. Puritanism is understood as a Christian sect that looks upon its members as the only devout and looks upon members of other sects as non-conformists.
Puritans believed that they are the only ones who should be admitted in church membership. The congregations of such individuals portray the true church. The sect does not accept others, thus, relates itself with the devil against general humanity (Lynch 65).
This extremism of Puritan principles indicates the spread of puritan ideology and its reception among people. Thus, the bias nature of Puritanism leads to hatred, distrust and segmentation among human beings. According to Lynch (2009; P. 69), puritans established themselves a distrustful society for a vibrant congregation which would later harm them.
The character of Brown in this story is reflection of the puritan ideology. In the character of Goodman Brown, Hawthorne’s Puritanism is satirized as the dominant faith in his home town. He looks at Puritanism in a manner to suggest his disillusionment and dissatisfaction with it as a system of belief. In Brown, Hawthorne seems to discover back his personal experiences with puritans (Lynch 70).
Crowley, Joseph. Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Taylor & Francis, 1971.
Lynch, John. Nathaniel Hawthorne. Massachusetts: Salem Press, 2009.