Questioning Faith in Hawthorne

Source: http://slais.ubc.ca

Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Katie Esposito, a student in Dr. White’s American Literature class at Lewis University.  Dr. White’s students were to submit some of their public posts for the class to the Jet Fuel Review Blog as an assignment. Katie has provided her post on the questioning of faith in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story, “Young Goodman Brown.”

 The Questioning of Faith in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”

All American people have the tendency to question who they are at some point in their life and question the faith that they believe in.  Many Americans experiment with different religions throughout their life in an attempt to see which is best for them and what makes most sense to them.

One of the authors and texts that I find most interesting in Early American Literature is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Young Goodman Brown” (1835) because in this text, the main character embarks on a journey to find his faith.  Embarking on a journey in order to change oneself is a habit that most Americans have, including me.

In “Young Goodman Brown”, the main character initially leaves his house, leaving his wife named “Faith” to take an unknown journey into the forest for the night.  What interested me most is that as soon as Goodman Brown leaves for the journey, he regrets leaving Faith and continually asks himself “But where is Faith?” (612).  The way that Goodman Brown regrets leaving his own faith to explore another faith is something that all Americans do when trying something new or going to a new place.

What interested me most about this text is how concerned Goodman Brown is about other people, like Goody Cloyse, seeing how his faith appears.  Why does he care so much?  Goodman Brown bases most of his religious values and decisions off of those of the members of his community.  Since he believes in the faith that those around him do rather than his own, his faith is weak and easily altered.

After discovering that Goody Cloyse, Deacon Gookin, the minister, his father, and grandfather have all gone to the devil, he automatically decides that he will do the same.  Once he is finally taken to the devil’s ceremony at the end of the story, he recognizes his wife, Faith amongst the rest of the people in his community as well.  Goodman Brown realizes that Faith is not who he thought she was and becomes completely estranged from her.

I believe that Hawthorne meant to show his readers that they should not base their religious beliefs or values off of the ones their parents or others around them because they will never know who they truly are or their true moral values.  Goodman Brown ends his journey of faith thinking that there is no good in the world and lives the rest of his life as a miserable man.  “Young Goodman Brown” should be a canonical American text because Nathaniel Hawthorne presents an important insight concerning the way that the faith of Americans is easily formed or altered due to either parental figures in one’s life or the community surrounding a person.

— Katie Esposito

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