ThePuritan Religious Beliefs and Goodman Brown’s Loss of Faith
The story “Young Goodman Brown” byNathaniel Hawthorne presents the specific Puritan religious beliefsthat illustrate Goodman Brown’s loss of faith. The storyillustrates the breakdown of Brown’s Puritan religious beliefs ashe travels to the devil’s meeting in the wilderness. At the lastminute, he refuses to join the other members of the society in thedevil’s meeting still clinging to the remnants of his Puritanreligious beliefs. However, on the way, he meets various people thathe considered as being righteous, yet they are not. The experienceshocks him since he had based his faith on the people around himrather than God. In fact, the journey opens his eyes to the realitythat the righteous people such as his father, grandfather,Faith and the minister are also corrupt showinghow his society is doomed. In the end, the activities also reduce thefaith he had in the Puritan religious beliefs. More specifically, thePuritan religious beliefs such as the public morality, female purity,and the presence of temptations as well as the loss of innocence arejust some of the elements that illustrate Goodman Brown’s loss offaith.
The way that Goodman Brown is focused more on his public moralityshows how his faith keeps deteriorating. He does not concentrate onhis faith, but, rather on how people will look at him if he is goingto the meeting. The focus on appearance is one of the key elementsthat lead to the loss of Brown’s faith. The Puritan society seemsto emphasize public morality rather than the internal beliefs of aperson and the strength of their faith. The fact that the society ismore focused on the public morality often undermines their privatereligious faith. Brown even decides “to place his faith in a humanrather than a higher being is the lesson Brown must learn or bechallenged to prove without a doubt” (Rowshanzamir,p.27). Given that the Puritan society also focuses more on theappearance, his faith keeps declining, since he does not focus onstrengthening his inner spirituality. It is evident that he is notconcerned with the way that “his social moral concerns and theeffect of individualistic immoral behaviors and what human being mayinflict upon him through the moral choices he makes in everydaynormal situations” (Rowshanzamir, p.243).On the way to the meeting, he hides from the likes of Goody Cloyseand Deacon Gookin. It seems as if he is going to the meeting but,the presence of the other people he knows at the meeting is whatscares him from going. He discovers that even his father,grandfather, Faith and the minister are all working with the devil.The scenario clearly undermines his faith since he loses hope in hiswife, father and grandfather too. It seems as if his faith is builton the fact that the people around him are religious. Hence, when hediscovers that they are evil, his faith is quickly undermined and heno longer believes in anything that they say.
The loss of innocence is another Puritan belief that illustratesGoodman Brown’s deteriorating faith. In this case, Puritan societyoften insists on the innocence of its members and the activities thatthey undertake. Even the term “Puritan” originates from thephrase “purity,” an aspect that reveals how they treasure theirinnocence. In fact, the first members of the Puritan religion beliefwere that they would create reforms changing both the Protestants andthe Catholics too (Zapf, 4). Such anassumption reveals how they valued innocence, and they wanted themembers to stay away from any evil practices. Even Goodman Brown wasmore focused on the innocence of the members of society. It is alsoevident that his faith was strengthened by the fact that peoplearound him were also free from evil and sins (Zapf, 3). However,after he discovers that the society is undergoing a loss ofinnocence, he also loses his faith in the religion. Even the journeyto the meeting shows his inherent corruptibility that also signifieshis loss of innocence. Evidently, “Brown is a "simplehusbandman" and a false convert who seems not to understand someof the most basic tenets of Calvinist Christianity” (Ronan,255). It is evident that he is more likely to engage in suchactivity, since he kept going even when he had his doubts. The factthat Goodman Brown made the personal choice to go to the meetingproves that he had a dark side. The inherent dark side is whatreveals his loss of innocence since he does not abide by the Puritanbeliefs that assert on the people as being pure. After he discoversthat nearly the entire society is based on evil, and everyone iscorrupt, he is disappointed Puritan society. All in all, the readersees how Goodman Brown’s loss of innocence and the other members ofthe society are instrumental in his deteriorating faith.
The Puritan religion believes that its members are surrounded bytemptations and, it is their choice to strengthen their faith andensure that they overcome any moves that the evil makes in theirlives. In this case, the temptations began the moment that GoodmanBrown enters the forest. It is evident that he fears the wildernesssince nothing good comes from the place as well. Symbolically, thewilderness stands for the evil and the temptations that he willencounter in the journey to the meeting (Lorenz,68). Apart from the evil, he believes that the wild Indianscan do harm since they are heartless, and they will not hesitate indoing something that is harmful. In fact, right after entering thewilderness, he meets the strange man that is focused on luringGoodman Brown into the meeting even if he seems reluctant. He isreluctant because he believes that his family members neverdisappointed their religious affiliation by heading to the evilmeeting (Lorenz, 68). The fact that heis even ashamed to be seen in the forest shows that the wilderness isa symbol of the evil that surrounds the Puritan society. Instead,their faith is supposed to guide them as they make some rationaldecisions. The wilderness also presents a battle between good andevil and at first, Goodman Brown is clearly afraid of walking in thewilderness since it is dark, devilish and frightening as well.Symbolically, it is evident that the “young Goodman Brown leadreaders to conclude that in the wilderness religious faith is fragileand undependable” (Lorenz, 67).However, after succumbing to the wishes of the evil he seems morecomfortable in the wilderness. His comfort in the wilderness alsomarks his loss of faith since he no longer views evil as an enemy.Evidently, the Puritan religion views evil as a sign of temptationand the fact that Goodman Brown is comfortable around evil shows howhe has lost his faith and acts in contrary to the religious beliefstoo.
The Puritan society often treasures the purity of the women, and thefact that Faith is heading to the devil’s meeting reduces GoodmanBrown’s faith in the religion. In particular, the Puritan societyasserts on the innocence of the women, and they are supposed to leadthe family effectively. In fact, they are the people guiding thefamilies hence, when they are not spiritual and innocent it meansthat their families will also be heading to a worse direction. EvenGoodman Brown went ahead with the evildoing knowing that after thatnight he will hold onto Faith’s skirt, and they will ascendtogether to heaven. It shows that the Puritan society valued thefemale purity and believed that the women were supposed to complywith the religious requirements, and they were expected to save thefamily as well (Xing, 161). Even asGoodman Brown proceeds with his journey, he seems reluctant becausehe knows that Faith is pure and after discovering that Faith isheading to the meeting, his faith also declines to a larger extent.In this case, his wife “Faith symbolizes Brown’s original faith,which becomes collapsed and lost when he meets with Satan and becomessuspicious of the goodness” (Xing, 161).As Brown proceeds, he notes that Faith’s pink ribbon is abandonedon a tree branch showing how she has lost the direction. The pinkribbon on the tree branch was a sign of Faith’s purity and it alsoshows the declining hope that Brown had on the religion and thesociety in general. Given that a righteous person such as Faith iscorrupt and evil, Brown also loses his faith in the society since itseems like everyone is not religious as they portray to be. Hence,the declining female purity also pushes Goodman Brown towards theverge of giving his soul to the evil and that erases every element offaith he had. In response, his soul gives way to the evil and the sinthat clings unto him instead.
The fact that the Goodman Brown had placed his faith in his wifeshows how misguided he was. Instead, he should look at people as meremortals that are even unaware of the way the universe runs. In fact,people are also vulnerable to the temptations and they might supportevil just like he did. It is his naivety on the tenets of religionthat seems misguided, and he expects people to have stronger faith(Ronan, 255). He should have even decided to place his trust in Godand not his fellow human beings that are also susceptible to anytemptations that life presents. Hence, it is evident that GoodmanBrown expects that the righteous people should uphold the samequalities throughout as well (Xiang, 161). He should have strived tobe the role model, and that would have changed the other people inthe society. The fact that he relates appearance with the innerspirituality of the members of the society is also shocking since thetwo concepts are not the same. In this case, the tenets of religionoften stress the importance of the inner spirituality and the trustthat the believers have.
In conclusion, the Puritan public morality,female purity, the wilderness and the loss of innocence are just someof the aspects that assert on Goodman Brown’s loss of faith aswell. In this case, the various Puritan religious beliefs are thecritical aspects that influence his faith and the moment they change,his faith also reduces. For instance, the Puritans are more focusedon the public morality, but, they do not emphasize on their innerspirituality. Goodman Brown has the faith in the religion simplybecause the people around him are religious. It is ratherhypocritical people since he should have looked upon God to offer himthe guidance that he might need but, not the other people. Themoment he discovers that they are not righteous as they seem, hisfaith also declines. On the other hand, the loss of innocence in thesociety also undermines his faith since he often believes that thereligion is pure. Besides that, the religion also insists on thefemale purity, and the women are expected to serve as role models tothe society. Hence, after he notices that Faith is also heading tothe meeting his faith in the religion declines to a larger extent.Lastly, Goodman Brown is lured by the devil to the temptations in thewilderness and that shows how he has decided to join the dark sideinstead. He also exposed to the temptations that the wildernesspossesses, and he is also one of the victims to the devil antics ashe also decides to join others at the meeting.
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