A Critique of Puritanism in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown Essays

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Young Goodman Brown: A Critique of Puritanism

Given Nathaniel Hawthorne's background, it is not a stretch of the imagination to say that Young Goodman Brown is a critique of Puritanism. Hawthorne lived in the deeply scarred New England area, separated from puritanism by only one generation. His grandfather had been one the judges who presided over the Salem Witch trials. Some of the principle motifs that run through Hawthorne's works are hidden sin, the supernatural, and the influence of evil. Ironically enough, puritanism is also a part of those tales. What then is the moral/ philosophical import of Young Goodman Brown? It suggests, in an allegorical sense, that puritanism is a deceptive religion that creates a false
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One might ask also why Faith wears pink ribbons, which are frivolous in nature, in her hair. This serves to symbolize again, the superfluous nature of puritanism, and also, its contradictory nature. Under the guise of righteousness, puritans actually committed horrific acts. So her ribbons are pink, a shade between the purity of white and the sin of red - a further indicator of Puritanism's ambiguity. And when Faith says "a lone woman is troubled with such dreams and thoughts that she's afeard of herself," one can not help thinking that her beauty is only skin deep.

Thus when Goodman Brown leaves his "faith", it is not a departure from virtue, but a departure from deception. To continue the allegorical analysis, Goodman Brown represents any naturally good human being caught in puritanism's web. His journey through the evil forest is a journey into truth - into Hawthorne's reality of evil puritanism. He discovers that all the "pious" members of the community are actually evil, which, when interpreted directly, tends to suggest the true nature of puritanism. And when these same upstanding puritans mingle with those of "dissolute lives" and "spotted fame(384)," Hawthorne is suggesting that Puritans are on the same level as these individuals in that there actions are no less morally repugnant. Brown's conversation with Satan suggests that Puritans have always unconsciously committed sin in their
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