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In “Young Goodman Brown,” Hawthorne exposes what he sees as the corruptibility that results from a Puritan society's focus on matters of public morality. These, in his opinion, are the issues that undermine religious trust as expressed by individuals privately.
While Goodman Brown chooses to meet the devil by entering the forest, he hides as soon as he hears the deacon and minister's voices, as well as seeing Goody Cloyse. Despite wanting to meet with the devil, he is concerned and preoccupied with how others will interpret his religion. To Goodman, the view that the people around him are religious makes him take a Christian stand too. As understood, it is this kind of faith that can be easily shaken and weakened since it is based on the appearance of other people. In every day’s life, depravity is perceived to be a sin. Moreover, it is a measure of the morality of individuals. From Goodman’s portrayal, Innate depravity denotes a natural and moral corruption. The perception is similar to the lives of puritans since their morals based on depravity define them.
Rather than considering his faith based on the concept of innate depravity, Brown pays more attention towards the appearance of his conviction in light of other people. As evidenced when Goodman makes a discovery that his grandfather, father, Deacon Gookin, Goody Cloyse, the minister, as well as Faith, belong to the same league with the devil, Goodman swiftly opts to do the same. From Hawthorne’s point of view, the danger in Christianity is that most individuals do not prefer to make their own moral decisions; instead, preference is given to what others believe and do. As a result of copying the beliefs of individuals around them, a person’s faith becomes weaker and rootless thus, easily destroyed.
With this extremism, especially against accepting others from different religious view, most of the American writers with Nathaniel Hawthorne included, Puritanism is subjected to criticism. Despite being an individual’s brought up in a family of Puritans, Hawthorne takes issue with Puritanism especially with regards to its outlook which is biased against other religions and the non-conformists. In 'Young Goodman Brown', since the author comes from Salem village, he uses satire to describe his hometown's dominant faith best. Moreover, he ensures that he uses Salem village to set up his works.
With the climax of the satirical work against his faith, the author appears to be conscious and morally upright that he does not spare his background by going forward and criticizing Puritanism. Moreover, another critical moment is when he declares the loss of his faith by stating that "My faith is gone!" However, the statement is made towards the belief of the understudied concept of religion. Despite the words, he appears to be a man of faith since such dark moments give him more spirit and the energy to spring back to a staunch believer. Thus, the proclamation of loss of confidence is made under stress and just to show the severity and negative influence of the Puritan faith.
As vividly described, the author loses his mental balance once he notices her wife as among the individuals in the forest. As a result, he ends up uttering words which he is unconscious of their meaning. With this, his belief in the Puritan faith further dwindles and finally dissolves. However, his faith in God still remains the same as he gets to ask his wife to ask God for a sign. The scenario indicates that despite his lack of belief in the Puritan religion, the author still believes in God. In the morning, he returns to the village. To him, the minister appears to be ridiculous and ironical since the previous night he and his faith met the devil in the forest.
In conclusion, Young Brown is prevented from realizing valuable information and facts about the human nature by Puritanism. Puritanism portrays man as a creature which cannot help to advocate for and practice freedoms unconscious or unconsciously. Moreover, as depicted, Brown is ignorant of the diversity of our human nature as well as our desires. He seems to be unaware of the fact that to avoid parochialism and gain the favor of the majority; man is required to have what George Trevelyan calls “the holistic world-view” that “can lift and lighten our hearts with hope and even joy” (Hawthorne 23-26). This means that one has to have one’s eyes on the whole world. From the above, Brown’s outlooks seem to be rooted in a belief which Hawthorne himself denounces as one-sided and hardly in harmony with the natural flow of life. Hawthorne’s treatment of the Puritan ideology in this story aims at achieving a limited purpose namely, to criticize and finally show his disillusionment with Puritanism as an outmoded system of belief.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. Booklassic, 2015. (Hawthorne 23-26)
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