Fear in “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
In his story, Young Goodman Brown Hawthorne uses the character’s journey into the forest as an allegory for his disillusionment with puritanical faith. Goodman Brown, although fears the forest because of the Indians who may be behind each tree, still considers it as the habitat of the devil. He is confident that true Puritans are not subject to temptations and vices, which he dissuades during his journey.
Goodman Brown expresses concerns about the true Puritan’s entry into the forest. He emphasizes that his father “never went into the woods” (Reidhead 347). He clarifies that he was always a pure and kind man who would never go to the forest as his whole family. However, his companion refutes this assumption, which surprises Goodman Brown. This event highlights the emergence of doubt in the character’s soul.
When in the second half of the story, the character runs through the forest, it appears to be filled with the voices of other people and nature sounds. Here Hawthorne notes that Goodman Brown rushes into the heart of the forest, guided by “instinct that guides mortal man to evil” (Reidhead 351). Thus, the author argues that the craving for vices and sins is probably part of human beings, determined by their essence.
At the end of the story, the character no longer trusts his wife with the self-explanatory name Faith and all other people. For him, the forest became a place of encounter with human vices, which are masked by Puritan believes. He becomes disillusioned with faith and realizes that truly righteous people do not exist if even the closest people enjoy walking through the forest inhabited by devilish temptations.
Thus, Godman Brown fears the forest not as a natural force but rather as temptations and vices. He was confident in the righteousness of the truth of the believers of the Puritans but realized that even the most respected people are elephants to sins. In this case, such aspirations of people are portrayed as an innate property of humanity, which cannot be eliminated.
Reidhead, Julia, et al. (eds.). The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 9th ed., W. W. Norton & Company, 2017.