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The Deeper Meanings of Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown Essay

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The Deeper Meanings of Young Goodman Brown


"Young Goodman Brown," a story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, should be interpreted on a psychoanalytical level rather than a religious one. It is my observation that "Young Goodman Brown" may very well be the first published work alluding to divisions of the mind and personality theory. Although religion is a direct theme throughout the story, "Young Goodman Brown" appears to be an allegory with deeper meanings.

To explore properly my position concerning the dynamics of "Young Goodman Brown," it is necessary to understand Freud's structural model. The development of Freud's structural model presents an understanding of the struggles between the conscious and unconscious forces of the mind. The structural model indicates three powerful forces that dictate conscious behavior, or binders of reality. These three forces consist of the id, superego, and ego.

When Young Goodman Brown begins his journey down the path of the haunted forest, he quickly meets a fellow-traveler that I interpret as the irrational guide lurking inside himself. The guide repeatedly urges Goodman Brown to continue the errand despite Brown's overwhelming reluctance; he assures him that "[W]e are but a little way in the forest yet" (Hawthorne 274). The traveler demonstrates a subconscious part of the psyche called the id. The id is that part of the psyche that is driven by pleasure and irrational wishing. The guide's insistence never seems to be in Brown's best interest.

The traveler's motive was to do what feels good at the time, not putting into account any potential ramification that could result, which in this story turns out to be the loss of Goodman Brown's wife, Faith. His reckless behavior is ap...


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...ind may be found within Hawthorne's story. If the reader will only look past its literal interpretation and explore the rich symbols and hidden meanings laden throughout the text, she or he will be rewarded with a work of fiction that was way before its time.

Works Cited

Carpenter, Richard. "Hawthorne's Polar Explorations: Young Goodman Brown and My Kinsman, Major Molineux." Nineteenth Century Fiction 24 (1969): 45-56.

Gay, Peter. Freud: A Life for Our Time. New York: Doubleday, 1989.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown." Literature Reading Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and the Essay. Ed. Robert DiYanni. 4th ed. Boston: McGraw & Hill, 1998. 272-280.

Hurley, Paul. "Young Goodman Brown's 'Heart of Darkness.'" American Literature 37 (1966): 410-419.

Paulits, Walter. "Ambivalence in 'Young Goodman Brown.'" American Literature 41 (1970): 577-584.


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