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26 pages 52 minutes read

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Young Goodman Brown

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1835

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Character Analysis

Goodman Brown

Goodman Brown, a God-fearing Puritan man, is the story’s protagonist. He is newly married to his wife, Faith, and is devoted to his religious beliefs. He exhibits, however, a keen curiosity to embark on an unknown journey into the wilderness despite his wife’s reluctance to see him go. Brown is loyal to God’s law, not the ordinance of lawmakers. This characteristic is emphasized when the elder traveler reveals that local politicians have walked the wooded path, to which Brown says, “they have their own ways, and are no rule for a simple husbandsman” (3).

“Goodman” was a term of endearment in Puritan communities used to address a young man of humble birth. Its use here is a play on words that suggests Brown is, indeed, a “good man.” Brown, however, embodies Hawthorne’s views of 17th-century Puritanism as insecure and hypocritical. Brown illustrates a young man’s naivety as he continually sees the good in all people, including his family and clergy. However, he shows the strongest conviction for his faith (both his wife and belief) when he says, “with Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” (6). Brown, however, is still lured by the devil to continue the test of his faith by attending the ceremony.

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