Goodman Brown’s Self-Doubt
The short story “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a tale rather about the spiritual adventure of Goodman Brown than his misadventure on an “evil purpose”. There is not a general agreement whether it is a parable, fable, or all special kinds of allegorical endeavor. Considering the tale as parable it is obvious that its main purpose to teach a lesson of a sin and faith.
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Due to Christian beliefs doubt itself is an essential root of a sin. Once doubt enters it is impossible to fully dismiss it. Actually the story begins with a Goodman Brown’s self-doubt after three months of marriage. Driven by his doubt, the main hero sets off on a difficult journey. His wife Faith tries to persuade him not to leave her. Her name is not accidental, as she will represent religious conviction of Brown throughout the tale.
The story is based on so-called solar myth: the main hero Goodman Brown leaves his motherland faces a lot of challenges and comes back. After his journey Brown changes, and his doubt immediately supplants his faith. He commits a sin when he comes to the forest, but it allows him to look at his life, his faith and at all humanity from a different perspective. After arriving home Brown is uncertain whether the previous night's events were a dream or real, but his belief that he lived among real Christians is distorted. His previous idealistic perception of reality disappears and he lives his life suspicious and embittered cynic among other self-centered and insincere cynics. Brown loses his faith and his death is doom and gloom.
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In this short story Hawthorne criticizes immoral and deceitful way of life of Puritans. By and large, it refers to all humanity, to its vices and temptations. Thirst for forbidden knowledge, people doubt, and sin and lose their faith. And what if a human doubt is the nature of human life?