Looking at the history of mankind, it is possible to see one of the attributes which always supports it. It is faith. No matter what century is considered, either before or after Christ’s birth, people always believed in something.
Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a story which dwells upon Puritanism, human beliefs and faith. The weakness of the society depends on the faith of those who live there and if one loses faith and believes that others have made the same, it leads to unsupported suspicions of evil nature of people who live nearby.
Brown believes that al people around him have deep faith in good. This is the main basis of his faith. This idea can be considered from the name of his wife, Faith. He lives with her, so believes her, trusts in her power. Faith (wife) is the first symbol in the story. She seems to persuade her husband not to go outside, but he does not agree and leaves.
Isn’t it the symbol of refusal of faith in goodness? When Brown goes to the forest, he does not pay attention to the fact that he goes to devil, he sees his neighbors and understands that they have lost their faith. This is the beginning of his disbelief and loss of faith in goodness as well. His belief is based on the beliefs of others, as it has been mentioned. When he saw that those beliefs had been ruined, his faith was ruined as well.
The whole story is full of allegories which consideration helps get the main idea of the story better. Village is a symbol of something good, while the forest, opposing to it, is an allegory of evil. The dark night is the association with the devil, as evil affairs are made when no one is able to see, at night (Neary 248).
The symbolic nature of faith is the problem which can be discussed perpetually as there is no specific answer to the issue. “The timelessness of mankind’s sin is revealed within the Puritans” (Jacobs n.p.), it can be stated that the allegorical relation of evil’s past, present and future is related to the Fall of Man.
The time in the story plays crucial role as it can be considered from different angles and can be referred to the various symbols. If to consider the story deeper, it comes out that the story is related to the time of Salem witch trials that makes it eerier (Jacobs n.p.).
Reading the story, it comes to mind that a journey to the forest may be a symbol of a journey into self. Waking up the next morning, Brown could not understand whether it was a dream or everything happened in the reality.
Trying to consider the whole story from this angle, it becomes understandable that dark forest is not just evil, it is a symbol of bed ideas which come to human mind when there is no faith in heart. The answer to the question about why Brown came so long was simple, “Faith kept me back a while” (Hawthorne 10). Is the wife meant? No! Brown tries to explain why his ideas have not been occupied by dark evil thought. The answer was faith. It is faith that makes people remain good and trust others.
Nevertheless, having entered the forest, Brown was not sure whether he was going the right way, whether it was exactly what he wanted. But, the understanding that other people in the village (the symbol of goodness) were on the side of dark (as he thought), he became to assure in his choice.
The weakness of the morality in society takes place when people stop perceive faith, when they are unable to consider what they believe into and copy the beliefs of the society. This is the main factor which points to the weakening of the society in general. The author of the book tries to find roots of such behavior in Puritanism, a religion which creates corruptibility of private religious faith (Campbell n.p).
Donoghue in his article tries to point to the fact that the absence of faith is not considered as sin in the story, still, Brown hides real reasons for going to the forest. Why does he do it? If it is not a sin, he could tell about it his wife.
This is the matter. Walking inside self and searching for dark corners, a person cannot think adequately, and right when faith is absent, dark thoughts occupy human mind. If a person has come to the ‘forest’ (evil place is meant), there no other ways out. The same has happened with Brown. The time when he entered the forest was the beginning of the faith loss.
Devil had already gained the aim, there was just necessary to strengthen the idea that all people were the same. The symbolic meeting with the village representatives is the play of Brown’s mind. Moreover, the whole journey may be considered as the mind game as in the morning the main character is unable to understand whether it was in reality or it was a dream. But, his opinion is influenced and the doubts have already occupied his mind.
In conclusion, the main character has to live his life without faith in humanity and in good. Is not it a paradox? Living with Faith Brown does not have it. The story is a good example of the life of a person who believes in nothing, an unhappy man. Brown is tempted by devil, but tries to convince the whole society in this affair.
Having been influenced by a devil Brown thinks that all people in the village are also under devil’s impact and cannot trust them as they are evil. Brown’s faith in goodness stops existing when he is sure that all people are tempted by evil. The morale of the story is that human faith is lost when they see that others in the society have already lost their faith in goodness.
Campbell, Donna M. “Puritanism in New England.” Literary Movements. Dept. of English, Washington State University. 21 Mar. 2010. Web.
Donoghue, Denis. “Hawthorne and Sin.” Christianity and Literature 52.2 (2003): 215- 234.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. Wildside Press LLC, 2005. Print.
Jacobs, Laurie Anne. “The Depths of Allegory in Hawthorne’s `Young Goodman Brown.” Department of English. N.d. Web.
Neary, John. “Shadows and Illuminations: Spiritual Journeys to the Dark Side in “Young Goodman Brown” and Eyes Wide Shut.” Religion & the Arts 10.2 (2006): 244-270.