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Young Goodman Brown

In this essay, I will examine Hawthorne’s use of tone, allegory and biblical allusions and discuss how it serves to highlight that even the most upright person can be corrupted by evil. In “Young Goodman Brown”, Hawthorne’s tone is confused as he is trying to figure out what and who exactly he is seeing and hearing at a gathering that is thought to be evil. “ “Of the two, reverend Sir,” said the voice like the deacon’s,”. In this phrase, the use of the word ‘like’ shows that Brown finds it hard to believe that it is the deacon he is hearing.

Although it was clear that he saw the deacon beside the minister, Brown still refuses to believe what he is seeing and hearing as he has always put the deacon on a pedestal and regarded him as someone religious. Hawthorne also writes that the voices were “talking so strangely in the empty air”, no church had ever been built, nor did any Christian ever pray in the forest.

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The word ‘strangely’ further tells the reader that Brown finds that the scene which was unfolding before his eyes was surreal and was confused as he does not know what exactly is happening.

The fact that he is actually comparing the forest to a place where there is a church and Christians praying tells us that he does not understand why he is seeing the people who are religious in his eyes at a last place he would expect god-fearing and religious people to be – the devil’s place.

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The use of Hawthorne’s confused tone and the choice of words tells the reader that Brown is naive and innocent as he did not think that even man who has been on the right path may stray one day.

Hawthorne also uses allegory to heighten the irony that the deep forest which represents evil is visited by the seemingly good men. The greatest irony of it all is the fact that these good men are actually the followers of the devil. This may be seen in Hawthorne’s description of the men as ‘holy’ and that they are journeying ‘deep into the heathen wilderness’. The use of the words ‘holy’ and ‘heathen’ serves to further illustrate the travesty of the situation as the very men whom many consider to be pious, are the most sacrilegious of them all.

The use of allegory is once again employed by Hawthorne as he exemplifies how Brown himself is tempted by the devil and is losing faith in the religion. He mentions that Brown “caught hold of a tree for support, being ready to sink down on the ground. ”. This phrase tells us that at this point, the act of holding on to the tree symbolises Brown’s faith in the religion. The use of the phrase ‘ready to sink down on the ground’ shows that he is losing the battle to hold on to his faith as he is on the verge of succumbing to the lure of the devil.

Hawthorne goes on to tell the reader that despite the fact that Brown was looking up and praying hard to hold on to his faith, there is a ‘black mass of cloud’ that came to “hide the brightening stars’. The black cloud represents evil while the brightening stars represent good. What is evident here is that in the battle between good versus evil, the black cloud has managed to successfully overpower the good. This description demonstrates that in life it does not always mean that good will overpower evil as the powers of the evil are far reaching and will always be there to corrupt.

In this extract, Hawthorne uses biblical allusions to show that even the most respected and religious people are doing something that is totally the opposite of good and that what they are doing is against their religion. Firstly, the characters “Reverend”, “deacon” and “minister” are also mentioned to be among those who are attending the meeting that is thought to be associated with the devil. These characters are known to be very well-respected and religious. They are supposed to be role-models in the Christian community and lead their Christian brothers along the straight and righteous path.

Instead, Hawthorne includes them in the gathering of the devil which is deemed as being sinful. This heightens the fact that even though they are religious, like any other normal human being, they can still be swayed by the tunes of the devil. Hawthorne also writes that the deacon mentioned he would “rather miss an ordination dinner than to-night’s meeting. ” This further tells us that even the most religious and purest man can succumb to evil acts. The deacon would rather attend a gathering of the devil worshippers from all over than be at an ordination dinner.

Hawthorne’s choice of biblical allusions amplifies the fact that no man is impervious to sin and that all mankind are susceptible. Although Hawthorne did not specify whether or not what unfolded was a dream, the story causes us to question and re-examine our strongly held beliefs that the man of the cloth is to be revered and looked up to. In this extract, Hawthorne’s consistent use of a confused tone, infusion of allegory and biblical allusions unveil the harsh reality that all human beings, regardless of their vocation, and what society perceives them to be, have their weaknesses and failings.

Cite this page

Young Goodman Brown. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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