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Analysis of Young Goodman Brown - Essay Example

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Name: Instructor: Course: Date: “Young Goodman Brown”: Irony, Madness and Symbolism. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown,” is a tale of morality, and the struggle of good against evil, which rages in the heart of every man. The protagonist, Young Goodman Brown, is caught between his outward Puritanical lifestyle and values, and his desire to give expression to the hidden evil in his soul…
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Analysis of Young Goodman Brown
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Download file to see previous pages Hawthorne skillfully uses irony, the depiction of madness, and symbolism, to heighten the effect of his story. “Young Goodman Brown,” is replete with irony. This irony is most obvious in Hawthorne’s characterizations of the people in his story. The author peoples his narrative with Puritans, whose outward words and behavior contradict their inner motives and covert actions. Young Goodman Brown himself is the foremost example of this. The protagonist deliberately sets out on his rendezvous with the Devil. He is eager to savor the evil pleasures that await him, and makes “haste on his present evil purpose” (Hawthorne, 8). He makes several empty protestations to the Devil, and declares his intentions to terminate his evil quest. However, he does not turn back: it is only talk: ““Too far! Too far!” exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk” (Hawthorne, 17). He remains “conscious of the guilty purpose that had brought him thither” (Hawthorne, 41), but continues to travel the path to perdition. Goody Cloyse, wears the guise of the “pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism in youth,” (Hawthorne, 26) but is a witch, complete with broomstick and evil incantations. Hawthorne’s irony makes him suggest, tongue-in-cheek, that her muttering is “a prayer, doubtless” (29). The supposedly holy minster, and “Good old Deacon Gookin” (Hawthorne, 61), are equally given to vice beneath the facade of saintliness. Hawthorne paints all Puritan society with its “grave, reputable, and pious people, these elders of the church, these chaste dames and dewy virgins” (57) in vivid colors of sin and dissolution. Even the hymn sung at the satanic gathering is cloaked in “the slow and mournful strain, such as the pious love, but joined to words which expressed all that our nature can conceive of sin, and darkly hinted at far more” (Hawthorne, 59). This pervading irony makes the reader acutely conscious of the incongruity between the author’s depiction of his characters, and the impression they create as the narrative progresses. This irony is further strengthened by the calm ending of the story in the town, with the characters again displaying their saintly demeanors. Hawthorne’s use of irony is very effective in highlighting the hypocrisy of Puritan life. Hawthorne paints the character of young Goodman Brown with a bold touch of madness. The protagonist’s ring of defenses against the temptations of the Devil tumble down in quick succession: his forbears, “a race of honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs” (Hawthorne, 17) are close acquaintances of the devil; the dignitaries of New England, who Goodman Brown thinks are “a people of prayer, and good works to boot, and abide no such wickedness” Hawthorne, 19) are revealed to be sinners; the pious trio of Goody Cloyse, the minster and Deacon Gookin are exposed in their true colors of wickedness. Finally, when his belief in his wife, Faith, is demolished, Goodman Brown’s moral foundations crumble, and he abandons himself to despair and madness. The author uses vivid imagery to describe this development. The paragraph depicting young Goodman Brow ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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