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Young Goodman Brown has been married for three months and would like nothing more than to stay home with his darling wife, Faith. But Young Goodman Brown has a meeting that he cannot miss. It’s in the woods, where nothing good happens and no one good goes, and he doesn’t want to go, but his travelling companion says all Young Goodman Brown’s ancestors have gone before him. So Young Goodman Brown walks and walks into the deepening gloom. And, as he does, frightening sounds come from the trees and he’s passed by multiple upstanding citizens of the village. Who are walking into the woods, where nothing good happens and no one good goes.And then Young Goodman Brown arrives at a clearing where the entire village has gathered in some sort of unholy ceremony. The final two people to be initiated are Young Goodman Brown and his new wife, Faith. After raising a prayer, the scene vanishes and he’s back home, unsure of what has actually happened or if it was a dream. Whatever happened that evening forever altered his view of his wife and fellow townsfolk, turning him into a bitter, suspicious old man.
‘Young Goodman Brown’ was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1835 and set in 17th century Salem.
Beautiful imagery coupled with sinister atmosphere bring to life the hesitation of a young man from a long line of religious men, who is on a dark errand to a place he doesn’t wish to go. The reader can feel Brown’s growing confusion and unease.
Some of the dialogue could be a bit dense, with the thees and thous, but overall the story moves along quickly enough. It’s obvious that what’s happening is a gathering of witches, without stating it explicitly, which is something I enjoy. For example, there are several references to people flying with the aid of sticks. The companion of the protagonist is even carrying a staff that resembles a snake, which allows someone to fly off at great speed. And in the clearing it’s obvious that what was happening was a Witches Sabbath, which was my favourite scene.
More useful information, including explanation of imagery and Hawthorne’s connection to the Salem witch trials on the Wikipedia page .
The story is available for Kindle for free from Amazon in Mosses from an Old Manse .
It’s also available in a variety of formats at Gutenberg.org .