Jay's blog


Young Goodman Brown

Posted in Uncategorized by jgarcia1390 on the March 9, 2011

What do we consider a myth? Is it based on things that are factual or is it purely made up of our imaginations? The perfect example that wavers on both sides of what a myth is, is the short story, “Young Goodman Brown,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The story takes place in Salem during the early 1800’s. The setting itself can be indicative of the constant use of myth and mythological creatures as a recurring theme throughout the plot. However, along with this theme comes the question of whether the events in this book actually happen or not. Hence, why this story proves both sides of what make up a myth.
The story starts with Goodman brown leaving his wife, Faith, alone in their house over night to set out on what Hawthorne refers to as a journey. Though the reason why Goodman has chosen to go on this journey is not immediately revealed, we find out that he is on his way to attend a satanic ritual held in the forest. Along this journey Goodman meets many creatures, some arguably human, that further prove whether myths are factual or not.
To dissect the definition of what we call a myth Yi-Fu Tuan uses his ideas of mythical space and place. We see many of Tuan’s ideas proven when he encounters a man in the forest whom is later revealed to be the devil himself by a religious woman who is also a witch. Back in the 1800’s Christianity was fairly dominant among the population of Salem and the reason Goodman is so ready to believe that the two are what they say they are is what Tuan refers to as a spatial component of world view, a conception of localized values within which people carry on their practical activities. (86)
Despite Goodman’s readiness to believe what happens to him, a reader’s reaction may teeter on skepticism. Any educated person would know that the rampant Christianity in early Salem was also filled with ignorance. According to Tuan, myths flourish in the absence of precise knowledge. (85) Perhaps the voices that Goodman hears and the objects he sees while continuing on with his journey are brought on by the paranoia of possibly having met the devil. It is easy to guess that Goodman was brought up within a Christian family and is naïve to the fact that his mind may be playing tricks on him. This is what Tuan calls defective knowledge that is based on the empirically known. (86)
The climax of the story comes when Goodman finally reaches the devil’s forest ceremony. He is forced to confront many paranormal activities including meeting his wife who he had thought was at home the whole night. Upon praying, however, Goodman finds that all that has been causing him trouble has disappeared. The result of encountering such an event leaves him finding evil in everyone he encounters when he gets home. Though Goodman cannot recall whether what he encountered was real or not, he is unable to get past the paranoia that he has acquired during the journey. According to Tuan, myth is not a belief that can be readily verified or proven false by evidence of the senses. (85) As we see this story showcases both sides of what a myth can be made of.

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