On Mankind’s Nature of Good vs. Evil

A student submission on June’s theme of Good versus Evil

Author: Adrian Hindu

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is a story that centralizes Goodman Brown’s tribulations of humankind being twofold. The citizens of Salem behave in a state of righteousness when they are performing their duties in the town of Christian faith. When they are alone with no listeners or witnesses, these same citizens behave in an opposite manner of deception and unrighteousness. Goodman Brown embarks on a curious pathway to discover different citizens of Salem to be deceiving to their true nature. I argue, the duality of man is mankind’s burden to recognize good and evil in the realm of deception and freewill. Young Goodman Brown is deceived throughout the story by different citizens of Salem, which produces resentment in an uncontrollable and irreversible process for the rest of his life.

To begin with, mankind is presented to Goodman Brown with various individuals who have an infinity within his life. These citizens are pious and have good morals, “who had taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser, jointly with the minister and Deacon Gookin” (Hawthorne 4). In his mind, there is the confusion of a pious lady to be out in the middle of the woods, and he consciously presumes there is no deception nearby. The mysterious person who journeyed with Goodman met with Goody Cloyse to unmask a pious lady into a suspect of being a witch. Goodman is deceived into witnessing such events unfold to realize the deception of his fellow spiritual advisor, “he had cast up his eyes in astonishment, and, looking down again, beheld neither Goody Cloyse nor the serpentine staff” (Hawthorne 5). Humanity hinders their true self to others because Goody Cloyse does not want Goodman to retreat from his pathway of hypocrisy. Inherently, Goodman Brown is being led into the realm of evilness because of the curious nature of humankind. He seeks the truth to discover the nature of good and evil, which leads to different encounters with his own supposably righteous citizens.

Subsequently, Goodman Brown encounters the minister and Deacon Gookin traveling amid the woods while discussing unrighteous remarks. Goodman hides in the bushes as he “heard the tramp of horses along the road, and deemed it advisable to conceal himself, conscious of the guilty purpose (Hawthorne 6). Reluctantly, Goodman Brown hinders himself from his advisors to avoid being misjudged for being in the forest. He avoids showing his true self in the hope of remaining in his free will manner of curiosity and blindness. The minister and Deacon Gookin’s conversation continues the disillusionment of, “I had rather miss an ordination dinner than to-night’s meeting” (Hawthorne 6). They spur the event of an unknown meeting taking place in the forest that preludes to their deceptive nature of good and righteous citizens. These people were Goodman’s Brown trustees that held his spiritual and moral life in progression and safety. The existential crisis of Goodman Brown is “being ready to sink down on the ground, faith and overburdened with the heavy sickness of his heart” (Hawthorne 6). Mankind betrays Goodman with deception and falsehood to hinder their true nature. 

The burden of his righteousness is stripped away since all his beliefs and morals are no longer true to him. Goodman Brown unleashes an evil character after he “beheld a pink ribbon” that announces the death of his wife, he changes to “there is no good on earth; and sin is but a name” (Hawthorne 7). Immediately preceding the deception and heartbreak of mankind, Goodman Brown turns into an unrighteous and evil figure that sees no good and is guided by evil. The nature of Goodman Brown is capable of good and evil, yet through resentment and falsehood, he falls into the realm of evil. The nature of mankind is inherently evil when preceding down the wrong pathway of unrighteousness and evilness. Mankind is capable of unleashing various personas and emotions, just as Goodman releases his wrath to show the nature of what a man can become through deception and resentment. There is a shadow self within mankind, yet it is controlled by not inheriting the evilness bestowed upon humanity. This shadow is evil and is kept under control to balance out the good and evil. There is no positive without negative and the existence of mankind must burden with good and evil. 

Furthermore, the aftermath of the meeting left Goodman Brown to realize the true nature of his fellow spiritual advisors. Goodman Brown returned to Salem village to witness, “the good old minister was taking a walk and meditate his sermon, and bestowed a blessing, as he passed Goodman Brown” (Hawthorne 11). The sinister minister was faking his daily duties while performing a blessing towards Goodman Brown. The falsehood of the minister makes Goodman Brown turn into a pinacol of resentment to distrust everything in his pathway. His spiritual advisors, “Old Deacon Gookin was at domestic worship, and Goody Cloyse, that excellent old Christian, stood in the early sunshine, catechizing a little girl” (Hawthorne 11). Goodman Brown realizes his fellow townspeople are hindering their true nature, making Goodman resentful and distrustful. Goodman Brown despises Christian worship as “he scowled and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his wife, and turned away” (Hawthorne 12). Goodman witnesses the deception of the spiritual advisors hiding their true selves. The freewill of his actions leads to a treacherous mindset with an emotionless expression towards his family and citizens. Throughout the tribulations of experiencing mankind’s duality of man, he becomes bitter and resentful for the rest of his tragic life.

To conclude, the story of “Young Goodman Brown” is about mankind’s nature of using various personas and masks for inheriting good or evil. The citizens of Salem and Young Goodman Brown express the duality of man to forego through different situations to reach the pinacol of deception and resentment. Goodman Brown embarks on a journey that changes his life forever, leading to a tragic and resentful life that despises Christian worship and mankind. Goodman Brown’s examination of good and evil is central to his decline. Through the tribulations of Goodman’s duality of man, he realizes deception and evil is what represents humanity.

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