Literary Analysis Paper

The discovery of skeletons in the cupboards of those held in high esteem can change the way the discoverer sees everyone else. Nathaniel Hawthorne's story Young Goodman Brown shows us the true human nature and how one’s behavior can change after he/she discovers hidden truths about those regarded as morally right. Young Goodman Brown's state at sunrise and at the end of the story illustrates how we can harm ourselves by believing that the world is a bad place.

Goodman Brown begins his journey with a resolve to proceed with preplanned evil at the expense of his beloved. He tells his wife, " Say thy prayers, dear Faith, and go to bed at dusk, and no harm will come to thee"1 (338) reassuring both her and himself that everything will be well at dawn. Believing this to be true, he continues his walk into the night despite his growing fears and doubts. Young Goodman Brown's journey is a cocktail of various events that finally make him change his perspective on his world.

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Early in his journey, Goodman Brown learns of his father and grandfather's relationship with an unrighteous companion. Although he is surprised by this discovery, he still displays some moral strength on account of his wife. "It would break her dear little heart, and I'd rather break my own,"2 (340) he says to his travel companion stating the reason why he must end his journey. The presence of Goody Cloyse, his Catechism teacher, in the same forest weakens his faith as her teachings laid the foundations of his belief. In the climax of Brown’s discoveries, he finds out that the town minister and deacon Gookin are not as saint as he thought they were. This time, Goodman Brown "caught hold of a tree for support, being ready to sink down on the ground, faint and overburdened with the sickness of his heart."3 (342) This reaction shows how deeply affected by these revelations he was. Seeing the multitude which he describes as "a grave and dark-clad company"4 (344) at the black sabbath affects his heart causing him to doubt humanity even more. These events show how Goodman Brown’s belief in the goodness of the world gradually changes until all he sees only flaws in everyone around him.

Goodman Brown returns from the forest overwhelmed by the revelations of the night. He started his journey hoping to complete his evil agenda; however, his illusions were shattered as he uncovered the secrets of the members of his community, one after another. As a result, his attitude towards the people of his community including his wife changed. His respect for those he once thought to be saints has gone, and now he believes the world is evil. Even though Goodman Brown lived a long life, it is evident that it was not a happy one "for his dying hour was gloom." 

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In conclusion, a person who looks out only for the evil in the world will surely find it. The young man in Hawthorne's story changed from believing in the goodness of the world to seeing only evil in it. At sunrise, he was no longer the same man who went into the forest. He carried on through life with a self-righteous attitude judging and criticizing others without considering his own flaws. This behavior makes him see the rest of the world as evil. Young Goodman Brown's attitude towards the people of his community at dawn and up till his old age shows that we end up harming ourselves when we believe that the world is a bad place.

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