Young Goodman Brown Essay Analysis Form

"Young Goodman Brown" is a key example of Hawthorne's examination of the conflicts between good and evil that -- he believes -- are always at work in the human psyche.  There are several ways that you could state the theme/thesis of this story --

a) Wickedness exists in every human;

b) Even the people who appear to be models of goodness and propriety have secrets to hide;

c) Nobody is exactly as they appear.

The name of...

"Young Goodman Brown" is a key example of Hawthorne's examination of the conflicts between good and evil that -- he believes -- are always at work in the human psyche.  There are several ways that you could state the theme/thesis of this story --

a) Wickedness exists in every human;

b) Even the people who appear to be models of goodness and propriety have secrets to hide;

c) Nobody is exactly as they appear.

The name of the main character, "Young GOODMAN Brown," is a tip-off to the fact that this story is going to be about morality.  "Goodman" is not so much the character's name as it is a common form of address in colonial times.  Nevertheless, it raises the question whether the young man is truly as "good" as he may seem. 

More in question is his wife, who is first introduced as "Faith, as the wife was aptly named."  Right from the start, Hawthorne sets up his two protagonists as model citizens, in what was a very religious community. 

On that night, Goodman Brown leaves his wife to go walking in the woods, meets a mysterious stranger (suggested to be the Devil), and ultimately sees a group of otherwise upstanding women from the town engaged in wild dancing that appears to be driven by witchcraft and devil worship.  Goodman Brown is horrified to see his wife Faith as part of the group. 

In the concluding paragraphs, we see that this incident, which may or may not have just been a dream, has the effect of shaking all of Goodman Brown's beliefs about the people around him.  Just as his beliefs are shaken, Hawthorne intends to raise questions for the reader as well.  Can we trust the trustworthy?  Can we believe what we think we believe?  Are good people as good as they seem, or do they have hidden evils?  Which is the reality, and which is the dream?

For an excellent overview, see the enotes.com reference on Young Goodman Brown at the source noted below.

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Young Goodman Brown:  The Formalistic Approach


In reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, I found many of the formalistic approach concepts in this short story. The concepts in this short story were simple to see and to understand. There was much discussion about the symbolism, allegory, and allusion, along with the ambiguity, and form.

            The formalistic approach to reading is one of the most common approaches to reading literature. The formalistic approach has three main points to it: symbolism, allegory, and allusion. However these are not the only criteria that belong to the formalistic approach. Ambiguity, form, and organic form are also a part of it. Symbolism can refer to an image. "When an image takes on meaning beyond its objective self, it moves into the realm of symbolism (86)". Allegory is "a one to one equivalence between the surface meaning and a higher meaning(101)". An example of this is a man named Christian that is christian. Allusion is a reference to something else, maybe another piece of literature or another movie. Allusion can lead to the reader's knowledge of the rest of the story. Ambiguity is the use of a particular word, but yet the word itself has many different meanings. Form is the way the reader identifies a story whether it is a story or a poem. The organic form has two parts: the local texture and logical structure. The local texture is the specific metaphors while the logical structure is the basic idea or argument of the story.

In Young Goodman Brown, symbolism is displayed in many areas. The first obvious one is the use of the word faith. Young Goodman Brown has a wife named Faith and in the later part of the story he actually loses his faith. The pink ribbon can also be used as a symbol. This is also a demonstration of ambiguity. Red often refers to sex while white refers to purity. However since pink is a mixture between red and white this leads us to think that there can be suspicion in this story. Other symbols from this book are the names of the people. In our class discussion we talked about the Puritans and the way they named their children. They name their children after things that are very important to them such as faith, purity, and chasity. Throughout this book there are many names used such as Faith and Goodman Brown.

            The use of allusions is present throughout this story. When Young Goodman Brown is talking about his wife, he is constantly talking about own faith. On page 375, he refers to his wife as his love and faith. This shows how he mixes the two words, trying to mean the same thing. Another example is while he is walking on the path and he encounters a man who has been waiting for him. Young Goodman Brown replies that "Faith kept him behind (376)". When Young Goodman Brown cries out "My Faith is gone (382)!" These are just a few examples of allusions that are used.

            The form and organic form of this short story are quite simple. Young Goodman Brown is a short story. This is the form or the external form. The organic form, as mentioned before, has two parts to it: local texture and logical structure. The local texture is the comparison that is made between things. The comparison that I noticed is the one where there is a description of red fire and a man who is mean and controlling. I make this comparison to the devil and hell. The logical structure of this story is a young man that has a wife, who ironically is named Faith, goes out one night on a journey. His wife begs him not to go but he does anyway. On his journey he encounters the devil and because of the devil he loses his Faith and his faith. When he comes back from his journey, he is a changed man. However his change is not for the better but for the worst.

            Through our readings in class of the formalistic approach and Young Goodman Brown, I was able to make connections between the two. The key concepts of the formalistic approach are symbolism, allusion, allegory, form, and ambiguity. The symbolism in this story was the most important concept that I saw in it. Although it was not the only concept that was demonstrated in the story.

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