Books and Movies Reviews

Puritan Elements in Young Goodman Brown

In an article on this short story, literary critic D. J. Moores quotes Alexander Solzhenitsyn as saying, “‘If only it were so simple!If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being'” (Moores 4).This is the central idea in “Young Goodman Brown” – all people have evil in them, and Goodman Brown discovers this the hard way on his trip though the forest with the Devil.He sees some of the most pious and respected townspeople engaging in Devil worship, and he cannot contend with the thought that they could possibly have evil inside them.Hawthorne writes, “‘That old woman taught me my catechism!’ said the young man; and there was a world of meaning in this simple comment” (Hawthorne 65).The main theme of this story is this good and evil that lives within us all.It is Goodman Brown’s Puritan morals and beliefs that do not allow him to accept this, or forgive it, in himself or those around him.
Throughout the story, Hawthorne blends many elements of Puritan society and belief to create an aura of faith and faithlessness, or good and evil.Critic Moores continues, “Young Goodman Brown experiences in the Salem woods his other self, his inner demon.He has the opportunity, which he fails to exploit, to assimilate such psychic energies and to be made whole, but his Calvinist Puritanism prevents him from doing so” (Moores).For example, the story is set in Salem, Massachusetts, the notorious setting of the Salem witch trials where numerous men and women were condemned as witches and sentenced to death by Puritan judges.In another element, Hawthorne equates the Devil with Indians.He writes, “‘There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree,’ said Goodman Brown to himself; and he glanced fearfully behind him, as he added, ‘What if the d…

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