The Psychological Archetypes in Nathaniel Hawthorn's 'Young Goodman Brown'

The psychological archetypes within Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown emulate how one's social relationships can crumble as culture is imbued with judgment. The Puritan society, portrayed by the causes of goodness at its core, spurns its members to cast discernment on others, yet not on themselves. These ideas of criticism can be seen in today's world as well, eroding interactions between members of the community. The Puritan moral code discussed in the story, emphasizes mankind's propensity to sin, which fosters distrust and suspicion among social groups in the external world.

As an individual, one must gain conscious awareness to understand and consolidate his/her perception of the external world.

A major theme often portrayed in Hawthorne's writings concerns conscious awareness of the reality which the mind imposes on external objects, images, or people. Characters, such as Young Goodman Brown, are frequently challenged by their constant need to establish a connection between their imagination and the external world. As Carl Jung claims, dealing with the challenges of the outside world and one's own imagination, causes the individual to gradually become more consciously aware of the comingling of both societal propriety and the shadow aspect of human nature.

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The Devil, along with the fiendish traits of his serpent staff, represent Jung's shadow theory. An embodiment of the darker side of Brown's personality, the devil acts through an evil demeanor to attract foolish Puritans. Tropolougously, his character carries a staff which bears great resemblance to a snake. Hawthorne inscribes, "But the only thing about him, that could be fixed upon as remarkable, was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought, that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself, like a living serpent".

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(Hawthorne 3). Once understanding the various Satanic values associated with the image of the serpent, the staff becomes a symbol for the supernatural power that envelopes the villain. Furthermore, symbolically it is the contract that his victims walk into, as he offers them the ability to walk with him. His character is clearly a physical manifestation of evil, however, the style in which others are attracted to him, creates his strength in character. In fact, Satan, interestingly, can be seen as the judgment and paranoia of the individuals of the Puritan society. Hawthorne does not include a physical embodiment of God, or any theory of him at all, besides his reference in the overall Puritan faith of the people. He does not seem to be present and seems at best indifferent in this story. Satan has power in this tale, he breaks into 'irrepressible mirth'(Hawthorne 4) during his conversation with Goodman Brown, laughing in the faces of naive Puritans. He is represented as the omnipotent figure, holding power over the Puritan society. The Devil represents the initial guide in allowing Goodman Brown to gain conscious awareness, as he wished to comprehend the dark side to human nature. As he walks with the devil, his neighbors become curious about his actions. Goody Cloyse observes the affair formed between Brown and his strange acquaintance, as she encounters them in the forest " Ah, forsooth, and it is your worship indeed?... Yea, truly it is, and in the very image of my old gossip, Goodman Brown, the grandfather of the silly fellow that now is" (Hawthorne ). Close associates Satan with an aged version of Goodman Brown, an indication that Satan is found within the doubt of the individuals in the society.

This description establishes the Devil as the shadowed side of Brown's identity. The nature of the Devil stems from the Puritan ideology of sin and chaos. It takes on the role of a fabrication that creates suspicion and hatred in the members of the external society both amongst each other and within. Faith, the wife, acts as the anima within Hawthorne's story. Brown fails to nurture his anima because he cannot comprehend that some things are not as simple as he deems them to be. Just as his persona shows to be inadequate in arbitrating between his ego and the external world, his anima fails to connect to his inner being through a feminine side. The anima is defined as the 'feminine nature of man's unconscious' and is always projected upon the person of the beloved. From one perspective, Faith is described as, 'heaven above and Faith below,' (Hawthorne ) 'look up to heaven, Faith,' (Hawthorne ) which creates an image of the maternal presence. From the other perspective, Faith fell into darkness, near the end of the story 'is not bent on heaven", (Hawthorne ) but on a place where she will find the object of her legitimate desire, which cannot be Brown represented as the son but must be Brown, her husband. Goodman Brown is not afraid that she will deceive him as a wife, but that she will deceive him as a maternal figure, and that is the reason he fears a Devil father figure will claim her. As his anima, she emulates a living soul-image in Brown that creates his satisfaction within life. Her name itself indicates her relation within Hawthorne's story, as there are many cases of word-play within the story in which Brown considers his faith. Hawthorne writes, " Is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith and go after her [goody Cloyse]?" ( Hawthorne ) In these circumstances, Brown asks the Devil whether he should leave Faith, his wife, or his religious-spiritual faith and venture on down the path of evil.

As concerned with the Puritan ideology, Brown acknowledges that to achieve enlightenment and salvation, he must pledge his life to the teachings of his religion. Brown wishes to remain loyal to his wife for the rest of his life, with the hope of entering Heaven, yet he seems to believe his piousness does not apply on the night where he dabbles in the Devil's work. Nevertheless, at the opening of the story, Brown talks of his wife, " Well; she's a blessed angel on earth, and after this one night; I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven" ( Hawthorne ). The divine angelic presence Brown classifies her by makes Faith a character that emulates that living thing in Brown that lives within its divine being, causing life. While Brown is within the forest, he comes across a pink ribbon belonging to his wife, and cries out "My Faith is gone!... There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name" (Hawthorne ).

The ribbons symbolize the belief of Goodman Brown that Faith has given herself over to the Devil, causing his credence that good is no longer existent in the world. He falls victim to the Puritan morals that individuals are congenitally wicked, and claims the duty of preservation of virtuous deeds within the world. Faith acts as the motivation in Brown's life, her purity triggering his shame and guilt on his journey in the woods. Portrayed as the divine righteous figure and the manifestation of Brown's final aspiration in the morality of humankind, Faith illustrates his analysis on the goodness within the Puritan society and ultimately justifies how Brown would see his neighbors for the remainder of his life. Once he finds his wife at the ceremony, Hawthorne explains " Awakening suddenly at midnight, he shrank from the bosom of Faith, and at morning or eventide, when the family knelt down at prayer, he scowled, and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his wife, and turned away" (Hawthorne ). If Brown loses hope in the Puritan community, he loses the driving force in his life. Thus, once suspicion is apparent amongst individuals of the society, the ideology no longer resembles that of a religion, but an economic tool for exploiting the masses.

Puritanism changes from the faith, to the disintegration of human trust and assurance. In Young Goodman Brown, the hero's initiation involves a 'night journey' that is comparable considerably to the hero's quest. This terrifying experience, according to Carl G. Jung, signifies the hero's descent into the unconscious, which, he portrays as "a situation of the primitive hero being devoured by something greater than them' (Jung 1912). Jung explains that those who make this descent, momentarily are 'overpowered by this unconscious and helplessly abandoned" (Jung 1912). By descending into the unconscious, the conscious mind put itself in a perilous position, hence Goodman Brown's constant agitation over the theory of evil. Brown is a character introduced as a pious Christian, frightened of being thought a sinner. When the story begins, Goodman has been married to Faith, whom he believes to be a paragon of goodness and purity. However, as he leaves this forest, Goodman Brown concludes that "There is no good on earth, and sin is but a name". (Hawthorne) Hawthorne juxtaposes the goodness of the wife with the now revealed: "present evil purpose" (Hawthorne ) of the husband, a strong indictment of the latter who goes into the forest fully conscious and aware of the intention. The concept of intention is necessary in this case since Brown does not accidentally stumble across the Devil. His resolve operates within the context of moral assumptions specific to the cultural setting of seventeenth-century New England. In order to drift off from the evil he discovers, and the normal Puritan pursuit of salvation as unpardonable, Brown rather accuses everyone around him than fall victim to admit his covenant with evil.

As it turns out, for Brown, the productivity of life is nothing less than maintaining an appointment with the Devil, which seems to have been arranged some time previously, by past members of Brown's covenant. He realizes that everyone is evil at heart and that the word "sin" means nothing because all humans are purely sinful in their own way. As he returns to the town, he is no longer the joyful, faithful young newlywed he was when he departed. Instead, he is bitter and mistrusts the "good" appearances of everyone around him. Brown, however, actually understands wrongdoing after this occurrence. One cannot escape the failure to be righteous in one's own strength. This experience allows Brown to leave behind his old character and beget a new life in that region of the psyche which is found inactive in the unconscious.

Archetypes make up the meaning of human nature. Although they differ in definition and symbolic value, there is a sense of cohesion behind all archetypes that make up human nature. These physiological archetypes, as well as social influences, contribute to the development of social roles and character identities. In the case of Young Goodman Brown, the archetypes of Satan, Faith as the anima, the forest, the Sabbath, and many more are distinctive to each other, yet they all play a role in the formation of Brown's true self. This theory can be seen in the representation of the Puritan community itself. For instance, the village, Salem represents peace, light, and knowledge since it was established by Puritans with strict rules and moral values. On the contrary, the forest stands for terror, darkness, and evil where Brown meets the devil. Moreover, according to Jung's theory of archetypes, the forest represents femininity in the eyes of a young man, an unexplored realm full of the unknown, therefore foreshadowing his descent into the unconscious. Thus, the conflict between these two ideas is evident. In all fairness, Brown's father was associated with the devil, therefore posing the question of whether Satan has corrupted the entire village. Since his father himself walked with the devil, Brown already has it in his blood to have an association with the dark one. Due to this, Hawthorne has challenged Brown's belief through the narrator's elusive insistence that Brown has carried all his thoughts of evil, and hence all the evil of which he is capable, into the forest with him.

As readers begin to understand that several of these pure, righteous characters in the Puritan community get influenced by evil found within the forest, one begins to visualize the forest as an axiom of truth to the evil found within the human being. The village is, therefore, compared to the conscious since it is a place of moral and social order. At the core of the village, however, lies the hypocrisy of the town's citizens in overemphasizing the idea of faith, as well as the stupidity and pride of the town's people in their choices to follow Satan. Brown's ego controls his id as long as he can still find comfort in Faith, Cloyse, the Deacon, since he believes that he is able to persist on the pious path. Once he sees the downfall of these figures that he deemed as worthy, his ego is overrun by the id. Brown himself downfalls after these occurrences, however he becomes indifferent to his own sense of evil and rather blames everyone around him. The result of this downfall is that Brown, in his state of agony, belongs neither to the Devil's party nor to that of the Puritan faith. In addition, the withdrawal and pessimism that envelop him after returning to the village occur not because he has yielded to the ruinous vision of evil in the forest, but because he has repressed it. The ego forbids him to accept his evil desires as his own; therefore he projects them upon his wife, and upon the other people, in whose goodness he can no longer accept as true. Because Brown rejects the idea of visualizing himself as an evil figure, he cannot understand that the archetypal representations of his friends make up his own person. Their own associations with an evil project on Brown who rejects his new self and results in living in his shadow.

Consequently, Brown refuses to recognize that evil, knowledge, and their sources are inherent parts of all human nature. The connection the story's archetypes exhibit to the character of Goodman Brown is seen not only in the theories of Carl Jung but also in Lacan. Characters like Goody Cloyse and Satan serve as mirrors in which Brown finds his unconscious reflected. According to Lacan, the theory of "I" reveals itself through links with "socially elaborated situations" (Lacan 5). It is fair to say that the recovery Brown makes about the faith of members in his society is elaborate enough to be looked at as a complex social situation. Moreover, in the story, Brown notices uncanny similarities between himself and the man he meets in the woods. These are not physical characteristics that he has in common with the man; rather, their similarities manifest themselves in their "expressions".

Brown acknowledges the subconscious he works his entire life to repress, identified within this man. In addition, through the dark ceremony that Faith, Brown and the rest of the characters appear to be going through Lacan's "Mirror Stage". By associating with the devil, Brown, and Faith gain an understanding that evil is found everywhere. "Now are ye undeceived. Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness". (Hawthorne 10). Instead of being conscious of themselves, they are now conscious of the evil that is everywhere. In opposition to the theory of "I", where the individual is aware of themselves. They cannot fully understand whether they identify within evil "Herein did the shape of evil dip his hand and prepare to lay the mark of baptism upon their foreheads, that they might be partakers of the mystery of sin, more conscious of the secret guilt of others, both in deed and thought than they could now be of their own". (Hawthorne 10). Neither of them is yet aware of whether their interaction with the devil makes them good or evil. They both know what good and evil are and will declare one or the other in fear of being convinced of the contrary.

The development of the characters of Satan and Faith as the shadow and anima are necessary in order to distinguish Brown as the Jungian persona, the public mask individuals portray in order to accommodate society's standards. Since the persona works alongside the anima, if the balance between the two is broken, it will result in a fractured state of the personality, as well as depression. As Brown returns from the woods, he is a changed man who cannot trust his neighbors despite the fact that he had been in the woods to meet with the Devil as well. Hence, this illustrates the Puritan tendency to judge humans as extremely sinful characters. Hawthorne writes " A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man, did he becomes the night of that fearful dream" (Hawthorne ).

As a result of his concern that others are sinful, created by his Puritan faith, his fears and suspicions are transformed into complete paranoia and dislike for the community. Walking through the forest accompanied by the Devil, Brown notices Goody Cloyse and says " But with your leave, friend, I shall take a cut through the woods, until we have left this Christian woman behind. Being a stranger to you, she might ask whom I was consorting with, and whither I was going". (Hawthorne ). Since Brown runs into a neighbor with the Devil by his side despite the long list of people he has helped, Brown must run away from the narrow path in order to hide his own evilness. Ironically, Goody Cloyse practices witchcraft while teaching the catechism to the children of the community.

By developing Goodman Brown as the Jungian persona, it depicts members of the Puritan society as no more evil than anyone else since they all catered to a social personality. The archetypes within Hawthorne's story Young Goodman Brown show how members of the Puritan society are fast to condemn others, yet refuse to acknowledge the past evils they themselves have committed. Dealing with the challenges of the outside world and one's own imagination, causes the individual to gradually become more consciously aware of the comingling of both societal propriety and the shadow aspect of human nature. The Devil, acting as a shadow, represents the darkness within every human being. Faith illustrates the epitomical image of goodness every human strives for. The persona acts as the counterpart for the anima since it intervenes between the ego and the external world. Through these archetypes, the Puritan society eventually falls apart, evoking the worst between neighbors. By being exposed to the challenges of society, individuals become consciously aware of the sin existing in the community yet refuse to acknowledge it within themselves, denying the shadow aspect of human nature.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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The Psychological Archetypes in Nathaniel Hawthorn's 'Young Goodman Brown'. (2024, Feb 08). Retrieved from

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