Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne harbors different meanings that can be derived using different techniques. The reading exposes the reading. The reader is treated to a different feel as far as the techniques are used. The closed reading of the text brings out different meanings. The essay will evaluate the different meanings in the short story based on the formalist approach, psychoanalytic approach and historical approach.
The story is different from the strict literary techniques. The formalists tend to consider the structure of the text as opposed to the feelings of the author. For instance, in paragraph 71 of the story, the author alludes to the possibilities that could have resulted in the transition of the main character from the person of good deed to the current mistrusting individual (Takeuchi, 1).
The story is created in a manner that the reader is not sure if the story is indeed real or a fabrication. This is what is being alluded in paragraph 71 of the text. The formalist approach can be used to infer the meaning that his journey was an allegory (Hawthorne, 1). The characters in the story tend to present the possibilities of evil and good. They paint the transition of the character from a young Goodman brown to a more mistrusting person after he discovers through his journey in the forest that the people whom he had trusted and perceived as clean individuals were indeed capable of being evil. There were in no way different from the villains and any other person that he would normally look down upon. In his journey, he settles for the possibility that the perception of people who are of a certain repute are nothing but possible sinners or evildoers who happen to lead a double life.
The psychoanalytic approach towards a literary text tends to apply psychological constructs to the overall understanding of an individual. The complicated journey that the main character takes is different from the ordinary journey. There is a tendency of the objects and characters as well as their actions mirroring the haze or dream world. There is a constant need for the story to create the relationship between what is real and what is a mere apparition in the mind. For instance, the titular character is described as being capable of flying. He also tends to see the walking stick turn into a snake as it was the case in the bible. These issues tend to create two points of analysis. The entire story and the meaning of it tend to represent the potential of the mind playing games on the people.
Interestingly, towards the end of the story, the titular character tends to wake up one stump in the forest. He does not wake up in the clearing mythical forest but one stump whereby he may have filled asleep. However, towards the end of the complicated journey, young Goodman Brown is seen getting back into Salem. His move into Salem is reflective of the reality or the real world. However, the effects of his imaginations tend to have an effect on how he views the people including his wife whom from the onset is seen as a love of his life. At some point, he is so taken by the beauty of his newlywed wife that he views to cling to it. However, his imagination world tends to have an effect on how he views the real world. He is essentially changed by the perceptions and experiences that he supposedly has in his complicated and rather undefended journey into the forest.
The earning that one can infer from the story can also be lateraled by the historical context in which the story is set. Young Goodman Brown was a person who did not have any contact with the outside world. He was more of a content puritan who was conscious of how his family had been raised in the Christian way. However, the puritanism that underscores the story tends to give it a different meaning. The church was supposed to be the political autocracy that was capable of controlling the social and other aspects of life. Beyond the church, the people are not aware of what each other thinks. To show the impact of the church on the life of Goodman Brown, it is important to consider his descriptions of the songs and chanting that he hears once he enters the forest. He refers to it as a hymn while in the real sense it was witchcraft.
The beliefs of the day also tend to inform the meaning that the reader is to derive from the text. For instance, the dream has a vivid manifestation of the devil himself. The devil is not a mere figment of the imagination. He is supposed to be alive and ready to convert people. This was a common belief at the time when the story was set. The belief in the possibility of the devil being active tends to inform how a strong puritan like Goodman Brown would envision him.
- “Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown”.” Home | Rutgers University – Newark.
- Takeuchi, Kisaki. “An Analysis of Hawthorne and Akutagawa.” (2016).