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Marissa Ross

22 March 2016

Nathaniel Hawthorne is known for interest he has in the Puritan faith and how he
incorporates that into his stories. Young Goodman Brown is a perfect example of this, for the
characters Puritan values play a huge role to the stories meaning. The first time reading through
Young Goodman Brown it is unclear what message Nathaniel Hawthorne is trying to get
across to us. After reading it again, and deeply analyzing it, we can conclude that there are a
couple different major and minor themes to be discussed. Young Goodman Brown teaches us
lessons about too high of expectations, leaving our faith, and judging people too harshly.
The main character Brown is a Puritan man who lives amongst a Puritan community.
Puritans value things such as honesty, community, marriage, and God. Browns decision to
abandon these values to walk with the Devil already set him back. Both mentally and physically
Brown walks away from his faith. Physically, Brown leaves his Faith by walking away from his
wife, whose name is Faith. Mentally, Brown leaves his faith the minute he makes this decision
and believes his sin of the night will have no lasting effect. As saying goodbye to Faith- both
literally and metaphorically- his wife says and may you find all well, when you come back.
This is a foreshadow of Browns downfall and loss of faith.
Brown is extremely arrogant, believing he can leave his values and faith just once and
still be accepted into heaven. Puritans believed that only God knew who would be accepted into
heaven, and that even the purist of people may be rotten underneath. Brown thought that his sin
filled night would have no effect on him going to heaven, because his wife Faith would be going
there. Brown states, and after this one night, Ill cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.,

as if he will still be able to hold onto faith after this night. Brown leaves everything he knows
when he enters the woods, including his community values, and this will certainly lead to
madness. Hawthorne believes in the importance of community, and that community gives us
order and coherence. When leaving to go meet the devil, Brown is leaving his community, and is
clearly lost. Our beliefs, values, and morals stem from our community-our friends and families.
If you leave that support system, it will be hard to find your way back. Things will never be the
The night in the woods with the Devil is unknown to be a dream or not, but the outcome
was inevitable. If this event was real, it means Brown made the personal choice to go into the
forest and actually lived the sin. If it was all a dream, the idea of this sin was within browns head
and a clear indication of his dark side. Essentially, Hawthorne is telling us that it is impossible to
leave your faith and return the same person. The life Brown lives following his walk in the forest
shows the life awaiting if one believes they are invincible to evil and sin.
Idealizing his family and community was another contribution to Browns downfall, and
another evident theme in Young Goodman Brown. Beginning with his goodbye to Faith,
Brown already shows his lack of good husband morals. Faith asks Brown to put off his trip and
sleep in his own bed that night. This is another foreshadow, indicating he would be sleeping in
another bed- maybe with the devil. Brown ignores this plead from his wife, knowing what he is
leaving her for. Puritans believed that open honesty between spouses was important, and was a
sign of true love. Faith openly confesses to Brown that she herself has been having scary and
sinful thoughts. Any sinful act or thought is wrong to Puritans, and Faith is scared of her own
thoughts. Even after hearing this confessed sin, Brown looks at his wife as perfect. All Brown
thinks of Faiths confession is that she mightve figured out where his trip was taking him, and

how he did not want her to know. As he goes off on a journey with the devil, he expects his wife
to be at home praying, and that way her good faith will be enough for both of them. He refers to
her as a blessed angel on earth, but did he even listen to her plea for help? Faith is
dehumanized by Brown, which later in the story will contribute to his downfall. Hawthorne is
telling us that idealizing women as pure and perfect is not love, but denial.
Hawthorne shows the importance of realizing the human in all people. Brown lacked
understanding of human complexity. When the truth is revealed to Brown about his family and
friends, he was so fixated on the idea that they were all pure, honest, perfect people that it
completely breaks his trust with them. This includes knowing everyone makes mistakes, and
nobody is perfect. Expecting perfection out of everyone is just a design for failure, and Brown
becomes subject to that. Early in his acquaintance with the Devil, Brown learns the truth about
his own family. The devil tells Brown he knows not only him, but his father, and his fathers
father- expressing that they too have sinned. After being taken to the ritual, and seeing his whole
community partaking in a demonic ritual, Browns whole view on his community is altered. His
thoughts about them were all so high and perfected, that the truth of them having sinned before
too nudges Brown into isolation and hatred.
This brings me to the last theme, which is that being unaccepting of others imperfections
will lead to misery and loneliness. Brown has what is called dichotomous thinking, which means
he believes things can only be one way or another; black or white. He categorized everyone as
being black or white, rather than seeing everyone as brown! Hawthorne may or may not have
purposely named this character Brown, but the irony of it is that he is Brown and is unable to
realize everyone else is too. Nobody is all good or all bad, everyone has their flaws and
strengths. Brown failed himself and his community when he decided to judge them all, instead of

accepting them. While in the act of sinning, Brown is shown the truth which is that everyone
sins. The image of his whole community taking part in the ritual in the woods sickened Brown.
He returns to his life more arrogant and smug than before, thinking he is above everyone else. At
the end of the story, Faith attempts to welcome Brown back from his journey, and Brown turned
down the greeting. This yet again shows how Brown was unable to go back to his Faith as he did
This story shows us, the readers, that you have to understand others, as well as taking
responsibility for yourself. Brown judged everyone else more harshly than he judged himself by
recognizing their sins with failure to recognize his own. What Brown does is called projectionblaming others for his own downfall or failures. Brown shuns all villagers because he believes he
is the only true puritan left. Brown is guilty, and therefore projects his own sins onto others to
make him feel better. The truth is that everybody sins, and the best way to approach sinning is to
help those overcome their sins, and allow others to help you overcome yours. Browns perception
of humans is distorted, and between that and his denial of his own flaws, his life becomes lonely
and miserable.
There are so many lessons that Young Goodman Brown teaches its readers. The overall
moral of the story is to stay true to your faith and your values or your life with take a turn. Brown
was doomed from the beginning. The mistakes he made as a husband, a citizen and as a puritan
lead to his overall destruction. Hawthorne warns us about the repercussions of living a life like
Brown did. Being unaccepting of others mistakes, and in denial about your own will make you
bitter. Leaving your faith and your community will leave you lost. And lastly, judging people to
harshly will make you lonely.