The Theme of Young Goodman Brown
Generally speaking, in any fiction, the author must have something to convey to his readers. So, the idea or thought that readers get from the writer is called “theme”. To be more exact, the theme of a piece of fiction is its controlling idea or its central insight.
Just as what is said in our text book, “Great stories, like great
symphonies, frequently have more than one theme.” In this fiction Young
Goodman Brown, I think the author---Nathaniel Hawthorne tries to tell us the complexity of human nature. So I think there are two themes in this fiction. On the one hand, it reveals the evil is the nature of mankind. On the other hand, it also implies the tendency to goodness and virtues is the very foundation of life.
In the Puritan doctrine, it is believed that all men are totally depraved and require constant self-examination to see that they are sinners and unworthy of God's Grace. The nature of mankind is always debated in the long history of man’s development. The narrator---Nathaniel Hawthorne
was educated under that education and the hero in this fiction--- Young Goodman Brown was also influenced deeply by that kind of education. So it is not difficult to imagine that Goodman Brown, an average common person, will have deeply-rooted evil in his inner heart. We can get this theme from aspects as follows.
Firstly, Goodman Brown left his beloved wife---Faith for no clear reason just to start an unknown journey. When Brown left, he thought that “Well, she’s a blessed angel on earth;and after this one night, I’ll cling to
her skirts and follow her to heaven.” Faith is not only Brown’s wife but a
symbol of his belief in Puritan. But he left his faith so easily even Faith complained and persuaded earnestly. So it means that Brown may look like a genuine Christian on surface, but he could leave and abandon his faith--- the purity and goodness even for no real reason, which proves his infirm belief. Secondly, after Goodman Brown met the old man in the forest, he was not forced to join that communion of evil, and actually it was he who drove himself to the baptism step by step. When Brown first met the old man who was about fifty and bore a considerable resemblance
to Brown, naturally Brown didn’t show any doubt or hostility to the old
man as a guide. We all know the old man is the symbol of Devil and temptation, but Young Goodman Brown was always accompanied by the old man into the deeper of forest. When Brown was hesitating to go back and didn’t want to move forward, the old man said, “Sit here and rest
yourself awhile; and when you feel like moving again, there is my staff to help you along.” The old man didn’t push Brown to follow him, but it’s
the natural attraction of evil in the inner heart of Brown that lured himself to attend the communion of evil. Finally, the biggest change in Brown’s
psychology is also the proof of evil in human nature. What Brown
experienced, such as meeting so-called good Christians, including his
Sunday School teacher, the minister and the deacon of his church, following her wife to the altar and the final struggle of calling “Look up
to Heaven, and resist the wicked one ”, is the reason for Goodman
Brown’s change for a stern, sad and darkly man. But actually his experience is just the powder train. The inner sin oriented in his heart---the very reason of his change is just lighted by the powder train.
But when Brown lost his faith in life, he wasn’t delighted at all. So it
may imply the necessity of kindness and faith in human’s life. At first,
when Brown was newly-married, we can see how happy Brown was, because virtue made him feel confident and full of hope. Secondly, during the process of journey, Brown couldn’t help looking up to heaven---the
symbol of God, which shows his tendency to kindness. Also when they are about to be anointed in blood to seal their alliance with wickedness, his final resist and loud cry are the strong proof of his determination against evil. In addition, after the journey, when Brown turned into a gloomy and hopeless guy and lost his faith, did he feel happy? No, absolutely not. The absence of hope and the failure of virtues destroyed his confidence, made him doubt every thing and drove his life a meaningless charade. So, Young Goodman Brown does need the goodness and virtues to give him the courage to live, which is also the need of man.
After the discussion, I think what Hawthorne conveys is the fight between evil and goodness of human nature. The complexity of human
must be defined by everyone. Who will be the final winner of the fight? If it is the devil, the dark and hopeless life will ruin all the meaning of living like Brown’s experience. So, I think the way to avoid the tragedy is
defending faith and sticking to goodness firmly.