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The Awareness of Evil Creates a Gloomy Life

As children people seem to know nothing about the presence of evil on earth. The only “bad guys” we see or are aware of are on television or in comic books. Eventually everyone experiences certain events in their lives that change their whole perspective on life. We all become aware of evil on earth. This knowledge can either bring us down or we can brush it off and go on with our lives. In “Young Goodman Brown” a young man is confronted with life altering events that change his perspective of the world and the people of Salem village. These events, and the knowledge gained from them, create a miserable life for Brown.

Hawthorne uses supernatural events, the uncertainty created by the dark forest setting, and encounters with trusted moral advisors to cause the rest of Brown’s life to become gloomy. First of all, Hawthorne uses supernatural events to make the rest of Goodman Brown’s life gloomy. For example, Brown encounters a “black cloud mass” from which the “accents of the townspeople…, men and women, both pious and ungodly…”(56) were emanating. The voices of the townspeople coming from such an evil place lead Brown to believe all of the people he knows are evil. The people he knows well and interacts with on a daily basis are all living an evil lie.

Brown’s life becomes gloomy because he can no longer live happily with the people he knows, and he can never trust them as friends or good Christians again. Furthermore, Faith’s pink ribbons “flutter[ing] lightly down through the air”(56) and landing on a branch further move Brown toward a gloomy life. The ribbons belong to his wife, whom he loves and trusts. After the ribbons fall Brown believes Faith is part of the evil of the Devil as well, and he cannot live a happy life with this horrible knowledge. His life becomes gloomy after this event 2/4 because he can no longer love or trust his wife knowing she as evil within her.

Finally, Brown witnesses a rock rise form the forest “surrounded by four blazing pines, their tops aflame, their stems untouched”(57) which create enough light for Brown to see “a score of church members…, famous for their sanctity”(58). Brown is a very religious man and seeing church members at the Devil’s meeting is devastating. Not only are the townspeople and his wife evil but the church members are as well. Brown’s life is further pushed into gloom from this point because he becomes trapped in a town of evil so pervasive, not even the church is free of it.

If the church, which is supposed to be immune to the Devil’s evil, can succumb to it there is no telling how many of the townspeople are involved as well. All of these supernatural events cause Brown’s life to become a gloomy one because of new knowledge he possesses. Furthermore, other than using supernatural events to cause Brown to live a gloomy life, Hawthorne uses the uncertainty created by the dark forest setting. For instance, as Brown enters the forest he notices, “it is darkened by the gloomiest tress…”(51) and he fears “the devil himself” might be “at [his] elbow”(52).

Goodman Brown enters the forest knowing it is associated with evil and the darkness created by it can easily deceive his eyes. As a religious person, Brown can feel gloomy entering the forest and knowing evil is so near his village. He also knows his purpose in the forest is to consort with the Devil, which also causes him to lead a gloomy existence. In addition, everything Brown sees, while in the presence of “innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead”(52), might be “ocular deception[s], assisted by the uncertain light”[52]. Brown has to live the rest of his life shrouded by a curtain of gloom and /4 doubt. He will never know if what he sees in the forest is actually true. Brown lives out the rest of his life believing what he witnesses is not a dream even though there is some doubt, such as the reemergence of Faith’s ribbons. He is torn between the idea of what he sees is a dream or reality, which causes him to lead a secluded life. Both the malevolent feeling cast by the forest and the uncertainty created by it cause Brown to feel gloomy in the later part of his life. Finally, Hawthorne uses encounters with trusted moral advisors to cause the rest of Brown’s life to become gloomy.

For example, Brown encounters Goody Cloyse, the “very pious and exemplary dame”[53] who catechized him, and she recognizes the Devil’s touch immediately and calls him “your worship”[54]. Goodman Brown trusts this supposedly pious woman for most of his life. To learn that she is evil is devastating to him. His life becomes gloomy because if a woman who is his moral advisor is corrupted by evil then anyone in the world might also be evil. Brown becomes withdrawn from the townspeople after this experience because he doesn’t know whom he can trust.

The inability to trust leads to gloom because a person cannot get close to anyone or interact with others in a normal fashion. Furthermore, Brown encounters the Minister and Deacon Gookin passing through the forest an their way to the Devil’s meeting, “where no church had ever been gathered” and “where no solitary Christian prayed”[56]. These two men are Brown’s trusted moral advisors like Goody Cloyse. The knowledge of their evil comes as another large blow to Brown’s trust in people. Without his trust in people Brown lives a gloomy life, not knowing who is evil and who can be trusted.

Lastly, Brown encounters “the shape of his own dead father” and “a 4/4 woman, with dim features of despair”[58] that appeared to be his mother at the Devil’s meeting. Brown had always seen his parents as very religious people, incapable of evil. With the knowledge of his parents secret life as Devil worshippers Brown becomes a gloomy person. If his parents cannot be trusted no one can be trusted. The encounters with the trusted moral advisors cause Brown to trust no on and live his life in gloom as a solitary withdrawn human being. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” presents a message that can be related to real life.

There comes a time in everyone’s life were they grow up and realize that things are not always as they seem. There are some evil people on this earth. We can accept it and go on with our lives or let it trouble us. Some of us accept what we learn and live our lives to the fullest with our new knowledge. Others, like Young Goodman Brown, live the rest of their lives miserably. Personally, I have learned that there is evil on this earth but I do not let it bother me. I try to enjoy life and have the most fun I can have while I am here.

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