Plot Summary of young good man brown

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Plot Summary of young good man brown

Post by SELMI OUSSEMA on Sun May 09, 2010 2:40 am

Plot Summary
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2003
Revised in 2008
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.......It is dusk in the village of Salem, Massachusetts, a community of god-fearing Puritans. At the threshold of the front door of his house, a young man named Goodman Brown kisses his wife, Faith, goodbye and embarks on a journey into the forest. He is not to return until the next morning. What activity would lure him away from his pretty wife, whom he married three months before, and into the dark and menacing uncertainty of the woods? It is a witches’ sabbath, a meeting at which he and others from Salem and surrounding communities are to be inducted into an evil brotherhood.
.......It may be simple curiosity that motivates Brown; after all, would it not be interesting to see witches performing their rituals before a blazing fire? On the other hand, it could be the challenge of braving the forest and confronting the temptation posed by evil forces. Such would be a colonial American version of a modern extreme sport or adventure. Then, too, Goodman Brown may truly wish to join the evil brotherhood.
.......In the forest, he meets a mysterious man with a staff resembling a snake, and together they travel on. The man appears to be a devil figure. From time to time, Brown expresses a desire to turn back, but his feet continue to carry him forward. Along the way, upright citizens–even members of the clergy—pass by on their way to the meeting while Brown hides behind trees and watches. At the site of the meeting, he suffers a terrible shock when he discovers that his wife—beautiful, innocent Faith—is also there. When a “Shape of Evil” prepares to baptize the newcomers into “the mystery of sin,” Goodman Brown tells his wife: “Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One.”
.......But as soon as those words pass his lips, he finds himself alone in the forest with only the sound of the wind for company. The next day, after he returns to Salem, life goes on as usual, and Brown wonders whether he had “fallen asleep, and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting.”
.......Whatever the case, Goodman Brown is never the same again; he becomes “a stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man.” After he dies many years later, he is followed to his grave by Faith, by his children, by his grandchildren, and by neighbors, but “they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom.”
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Characters
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Goodman Brown: Recently married Puritan who lives in Salem in the 1600's. He believes in the goodness of the townspeople until he sees many of them attending a witches’ sabbath in the forest. Goodman is a title equivalent to Mister.
Faith: Goodman Brown’s wife.
The Devil Figure: Mysterious man who meets Goodman Brown in the forest and accompanies him part way to the witches’ sabbath, where Brown is to be inducted into an evil brotherhood.
Minister: Church leader who leads Goodman Brown to the unhallowed baptismal altar in the forest.
Deacon Gookin: Salem Churchman who attends the witches' sabbath.
Goody Cloyse: Teacher of cathechism who attends the witches' sabbath.
Martha Carrier: Salem resident, described as a "rampant hag," who attends the witches' sabbath. The devil had been promised her that she would be the queen of hell. With Goody Cloyse, she leads Faith to the unhallowed baptismal altar.
Powwows: Indian medicine men who attend the witches' sabbath.
Various Townspeople
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Type of Work
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Young Goodman Brown is a short story, one of the greatest in American literature. One may read it as an allegory centering on the temptation everyone faces and on the human tendency to prejudge others on insufficient evidence. The story was published in 1835.
Setting
The action takes place in the second half of the seventeenth century in Salem, a town northeast of Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Puritan settlers established Salem in 1626 under the name of Naumkeag. Several years later, the town changed its name to Salem, apparently after the Hebrew word shalom, meaning peace. (Jerusalem derives the last two syllables of its name from the same Hebrew word. In full, Jerusalem means city of peace.) Salem was a theocracy in which the Christian moral law, as interpreted by the Puritan settlers of the town, was supreme. “Young Goodman Brown” takes place around the time of the Salem witch trials, held in the spring and autumn of 1692. During these infamous trials, twenty innocent women and men were found guilty of witchcraft and executed.
Symbolism
The Forest as Eden
Goodman Brown appears to represent human beings confronted with temptation–that is, he wishes to enter the dark forest of sin, so to speak, to satisfy his curiosity about the happenings there and perhaps even to take part in them. The man who meets Brown in the forest appears to represent the devil; his staff is a symbol of the devil as a serpent. Thus, we have Adam (Brown, curious to learn forbidden knowledge) facing the serpent in the Garden of Eden. It was, of course, a tree—the Tree of Knowledge—that enticed Adam. Goodman Brown is enticed by an entire forest. Like Adam, he suffers a great fall from innocence. Faith appears to represent Brown’s religious faith and his faith in others; her pink ribbons stand for innocence. But when she also appears at the witches' sabbath—apparently, like Eve, desiring forbidden knowledge—she too loses her innocence. At the last moment before his and his wife's baptism into the evil society gathered in the forest, Brown urges his wife: "Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One." He then finds himself alone in the forest, wondering whether he has awakened from a dream or really did attend the witches' sabbath. But the damage is done, and he becomes "a stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man."
Primordial Symbols
Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) theorized that all humans share certain inborn impulses and concepts residing in the mind at the unconscious level. For example, all humans react to sunlight in the same way, perceiving it as a symbol of joy, happiness, glory, optimism, truth, a new beginning, or God. Likewise, humans associate dark forests (like the one in "Young Goodman Brown") with danger, obscurity, confusion, and the unknown or with evil, sin, and death. Jung termed external stimuli (such as dark forests) primordial symbols–primordial meaning existing from the beginning of time. Examples of other primordial symbols you may encounter in your study of literature include the following: a river (the passage of time), overcast sky (gloom, depression, despair), lamb (innocence, vulnerability), violent storm (wrath, inconsolable grief), flowers (delicacy, perishability, beauty), mountain (obstacle, challenge), eagle (majesty, freedom) the color white (purity, innocence), the color red (anger, passion, war, blood), the color green (new life, hope), water (birth or rebirth), autumn (old age), winter (death).
Faith
Goodman Brown's wife, Faith, symbolizes Brown's spiritual faith. When he sees her in the forest at the witches' sabbath, he realizes he is in danger of losing not only his wife but also his spiritual faith.
Themes
Theme 1 How the Puritans’ strict moral code and overemphasis on the sinfulness of humankind foster undue suspicion and distrust. Goodman Brown’s experience in the forest–whether dream or reality–causes him to lose his faith in others and die an unhappy man. Note the last words of the story: “They carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom.”
Theme 2 The realization that evil can infect people who seem upright. Goodman Brown discovers that even highly respected people in Salem fall victim to the forces of darkness. Today–when corporate executives cheat stockholders, politicians lie to win elections, and members of the clergy defraud their congregations–this theme still resonates.
Theme 3 One man’s virtue is another man’s sin, and vice versa. “There is no good on earth,” Goodman Brown observes, “and sin is but a name.” In other words, whether an action is good or evil appears to depend on who is viewing the action. The zealotry of a Puritan punishing a wrongdoer–like Goodman Brown’s grandfather lashing “a Quaker woman so smartly through the streets”–might be praised as a just act by another Puritan but condemned as an inhumane act by non-Puritans. These opposing views of the same action seem to confuse Brown; he is like a modern man who is told that “everything goes” or that one moral position is as valid as another, opposing one. There are, of course, absolute moral values which should prevail for everyone, regardless of their religion or lack of it. For example, murder is always wrong; child abuse is always wrong. However, the devil figure succeeds in confounding Brown on what is truly right and what is truly wrong.
Climax and Conclusion
The climax of the story occurs when Goodman Brown, standing before the altar with Faith to receive the mark of baptism from the devil, hesitates at the last minute and urges his wife to "look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one." The conclusion, or denouement, of the story then begins when he suddenly finds himself alone in the forest, as if he has just awakened from a dream. What he experienced in the forest—whether dream or reality—changes his life. He is now suspicious of everyone, just as the Puritans of real-life Salem were when they participated in a witch hunt that resulted in the execution of
Dream vs Reality
Hawthorne leaves open to question whether Goodman Brown’s experience is real or imagined, as in a dream. Keep in mind that normal, mentally stable people—like you or those around you—sometimes accept delusions, fantasies, or fabrications as real events. Keep in mind, too, that they sometimes see evil in a person who has done no evil.
Brown as Thrill-Seeker
It is reasonable to interpret “Young Goodman Brown” in ways other than those already mentioned. For example, Brown could represent an archetypical Ulysses or Faust figure whose curiosity prods him to seek knowledge or, like modern adventurers and thrill-seekers, undergo “extreme” challenges. It is also reasonable to interpret the short story as a tale of rebellion against established beliefs. Like young people today—who, refusing to be cast in the philosophical or theological mold of their parents or friends—explore various ideologies and dabble in nihilism. Brown may have wished to venture into the forbidden zone, into terra incognita, to discover the world and its ideas for himself.
Allusions, Historical References, and Vocabulary
Goodman: Husband or master of a household.
Goody: (1) Housewife, especially an elderly one, of a lower class; (2) any lower-class woman; (3) housewife or mistress of a household.
King William (Paragraph 13): William III, king of England from 1689 to 1702.
Wot'st: (Paragraph 15): Know.
King Philip (Paragraph 18): Nickname of the Wampanoag Indian chief Metacom (or Metacomet). Maltreatment of Indians by whites provoked him into waging what came to be known as King Philip's War against New Englanders in 1675-1676. His defiance instilled fear in the white inhabitants of New England.
Lecture-Day (Paragraph 21): Weekday on which a sermon was given.
E'en Go Thy Ways (Paragraph 25): Just (righteous) be thy ways.
Cinquefoil (Paragraph 32): Flowering plant of the rose family that has white, red, or yellow petals.
Wolf's Bane (Paragraph 32): Wolfsbane, a poisonous plant.
Devil's Staff (Paragraph 36): The narrator says, "So saying, he threw it [the staff] down at her feet, where, perhaps, it assumed life, being one of the rods which its owner had formerly lent to the Egyptian magi." This passage alludes to verses 8-12 in Chapter 7 of the Bible's Book of Exodus. According to these verses, God directs Moses to tell Aaron, his brother, to cast down his staff before the throne of the pharaoh of Egypt. When he does so, it transforms itself into a serpent. The pharaoh's magicians (magi) then cast down their staffs, which in like manner turned into serpents. However, Aaron's staff consumes the staffs of the magicians.
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Puritanism and the Witch Trials
.......Puritanism began in England in the late Sixteenth Century when Protestant reformers attempted to purge the Church of England (or Anglican Church) of the elaborate ceremonies, rituals, and hierarchical structure it retained from the Roman Catholic Church after King Henry VIII established Anglicanism by acts of Parliament between 1529 and 1536. The Act of Supremacy, approved in 1534, officially established the Church of England as an independent Protestant entity separate from the Roman Catholic Church. However, the Church of England retained Catholic rituals such as the mass and prelates such as bishops. For the Puritans, the pure word of the Bible, presented in part through inspired preaching, took precedence over rituals while direct revelation from the Holy Spirit superseded reason. After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, the Puritans petitioned the new monarch, King James I, to adopt their reforms. In January 1604 at a special conference at Hampton Court Palace near London, the king rejected most of the proposed Puritan reforms but he did grant a Puritan request for a new translation of the Bible, which resulted in publication of the King James Version in 1611.
Many disenchanted puritans left the country. Those who remained behind joined with members of Parliament opposed to the crown's economic policies. Together they defeated the king's forces in the English Civil War. With the king out of the way, the Puritans became a dominant faction in the new Commonwealth government headed by Oliver Cromwell. However, after Cromwell's death in 1558, a movement to restore the monarchy began, and King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660. Under the Clarendon Code, approved in 1662, the Church of England expelled all Puritan ministers who refused to accept church tenets. Many Puritans then emigrated to America and established their brand of religion in Massachusetts and other colonies.
.......Puritan ministers were generally well educated, and Puritan congregations promoted ideals that helped lay the foundation for American democracy.
.......However, because of their strict moral code, the Puritans were ever on the lookout for satanic influence and, unfortunately, sometimes saw evil where none existed. In Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, more than 150 people were accused of witchcraft and jailed. Twenty of them were executed. Nineteen were hanged and one was pressed to death. In a pressing, the executioners secured the condemned person, facing upward, on a bed of nails. Then they loaded weights onto his or her body. American dramatist Arthur Miller wrote a play, The Crucible, about these trials. Belief in evil forces such as witches, warlocks, and diabolical spirits was widespread in America and Europe during and before the 17th Century.
.......Although "Young Goodman Brown" is a fictional tale, it is based on the atmosphere prevailing in Salem, Mass., during the time of the witch trials. .
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Study Questions and Essay Topics
1..Discuss situations and circumstances that cause people in today’s society to enter a “dark forest,” as Goodman Brown did.
2..Does Goodman Brown really attend a witches' sabbath or does he dream about it?
3..Research the life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Then write an essay discussing the extent to which his family background influenced him ....when he wrote "Young Goodman Brown."
4..Why does Goodman Brown become "a stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man" after his experience in ....the forest?
5..Why are people today fascinated with stories about witchcraft, sorcery, and magic?
6..After Goodman Brown returns from the forest, he becomes a cynical man. Does he see evil where there is goodness? Identify “witch hunts” that are occurring today in your community or your country? For example, are people on one side of an issue attempting to discredit people on the other side of the issue by using unfair tactics that impugn the latter's reputation?
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SELMI OUSSEMA

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