I don’t know why people like going into spooky forests and think it’s going to be a journey full of unicorns and houses made out of chocolate or something! Yes, Nathaniel Hawthorne had set his story, “Young Goodman Brown” in a forest. Prepare yourself.
Goodman Brown sets off on to tend to an unknown errand and must venture into the forest. He feels sad to leave his wife, Faith, alone, but Goodman Brown insists he has to go. During this journey he meets a man in “decent attire” just sitting on a the foot of a tree. This is when things start to go dark during the story. This man symbolizes that “evil” or “devil” on one side of Goodman’s shoulder, while Faith (his wife, and also the symbol of home or community) sits on the other. Goodman sees his family and members of his community as good people, “a race of honest men and good Christians.”
However, with all the mystical things happening in the forest, and seeing members in his community take part of a kind of devilish sacrifice or evil campfire story time, Hawthorne relinquishes Goodman’s original idea of his people. He returns home to become “a stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man.” Witnessing his Faith, both wife and actual belief, being tested and sacrificed, really took a blow on Goodman. All he believed to be true was challenged. It was a lie! So he couldn’t see it within himself to return home and see them the same way. Under the good nature they embody, there was this sinfulness etched in their being.
I believe that what Goodman experienced was a nightmare and didn’t actually happen because even the narrator contemplates it:
Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest, and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting?
Whether it be true or just a dream, Hawthorne did a great job expressing the society in which Goodman lived in. I felt that there was an innocent exterior, which we easily fall for when encountering people first hand. However, it’s the very nature within them, their deepest secrets, that saw a lot more about who they actually are. Hawthorne uses the story of Goodman Brown to show how faith can shadow a person’s truest evil. You might just have to travel into a creepy forest to figure it all out.
I think that this story definitely rings true to our modern day society. Its easy to fall prey to scammers, online bullies, and that very intriguing sale tag on company websites. Nothing is ever as good as they make it seem. The best example I can think of is social media. This generation is obsessed with selfies and keeping up an image through their online profiles. I know people who have hundreds of friends on their friends list, when they know just a third of the people on it. Theres ways people can manipulate how they look on their pictures and lie about their demographics. But the main thing is: these people are not their online profiles. It can be seen as a front to hide who they really are. I mean, come on! We’ve watched a few episodes of MTV’S Catfish. Things can get serious and have real emotional aftershocks because of this misconception.
Here’s the trailer to the movie Catfish, which sparked the actual TV Series:
People aren’t always who they say they are.