The Mysterious Nightmare of Goodman Brown
In the short story “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Goodman Brown’s journey to the mysterious forest was a dream. According to Bloom’s Literature, Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts. He was from a puritan stock, and he changed his last name, so that he cannot be associated with his past generation. Hawthorne uses his story to escape reality.
Goodman Brown was a God-fearing man in a puritan society and his faith was tested on a one-night journey in a dream state. He believes in God and he trusted everyone around him. Hawthorne creates a scene on the street of Salem village, where Goodman Brown was saying goodbye to his wife Faith. The purpose of this scene is that Hawthorne reveal how the aspect of dream was acknowledge from the beginning of the story. “What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too” (Hawthorne line 20). Goodman Brown regrets leaving his wife and her facial expression was not encouraging to him because she fears that her dream about his journey might come through. On his way, Brown faith was first tested when he came across an older traveler with a staff that wriggles like a snake , and the older traveler offers to give him the staff, but Brown could not touch it because he believes that snakes are symbols of the devil. In “The Vision of Goodman Brown” Robinson writes about the “subconsciously, the devil’s speech is his own also, for the sin recounted are more in keeping with Brown’s naivete than with his image of Satanic Sophistication. The first traveler reveals himself as the devil when he talks of helping Goodman’s grandfather and other relatives who was all puritans. In the Journal Article, “Young Goodman Brown’s ‘Heart of Darkness’”, Paul Hurley writes that “[Goodman Brown’s] ‘visions’ are the product of his suspicion and distrust, not the Devil’s wiles”. Brown’s dream was a way of revealing his true nature whether he was a righteous man, or he was just putting on an act.
Goodman Brown perceptions were revealed. Just as his feeling for lonely footsteps passing through an imaginary dimension. Hawthorne description of the forest was illusory as stated in the original story because of the “dreary road’, gloomiest trees’, innumerable trunks” (Hawthorne line 27-30). Hawthorne describes all these things to set a mental image of what was going through Goodman’s Brown mind. In the “The Forest of Goodman Brown’s Night”, Reginald Cook quotes that “[Goodman] passes from a conscious world to a subconscious one”. Brown was not fully aware of his surrounding and his vision was unclear. One cannot tell whether this dream started before his journey or after he begins his journey. Hawthorne also describes the road of the forest as an unseen multitude. Brown saw a lot of different pathway along the road. Brown heard voices in his subconscious state and one of these voices was his wife Faith. “’Then came a stronger swell of those familiar tones, heard daily in the sunshine at Salem village, but never until now from a cloud of night There was one voice of a young woman, uttering lamentation, yet with an uncertain sorrow, and entreating for some favor, which, perhaps, it would grieve her to obtain; and all the unseen multitude, both saints and sinners, seemed to encourage her onward.’ ‘Faith shouted Goodman Brown’” (Hawthorne line 191-192). Initially Hawthorne, interpretation of the voices in the forest was that the church was the forest and the voices was the congregation.
Hawthorne creates mental images in Goodman Brown’s mind to trouble him. Along the way of Goodman Brown journey, he started to feel alone in his mind, and he gathered supernatural thoughts that scared him more. The first mental picture that Brown’s perceived was that “There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree” (Hawthorne line 32). While experiencing these feelings he encounters an older male traveler that seems to be waiting for him. Another imagery in this story that relates to dream was when Goodman Brown started to see a mirror image of an older version of himself who seems to be waiting for him under a tree in the forest. The older man bears more resemblance in “expression than features” (Hawthorne line 43) as he was described in the story, but still you could’ve taken them to be father and son. The resemblance between these two men was symbolic. Both the older man and Goodman basically had the same rank and manners.
Goodman Brown unconscious self could not possibly find a way out of the forest. Hawthorne shows subconsciousness once again in Brown’s travel suggesting an unreal mindset in which Goodman started to doubt the goodness, he had in him. When Goodman met the second traveler with that staff, and he offers to give it to Brown, but he refuses to accept it, because he thought that it was a symbol of the devil. “He is, indeed the devil” (Cook). Goodman was a different person in his past life who did not worship God, but people who knew him Goodman worshipped and fear him. He was respected by everyone who were in the forest. When they were having a conversation deeper into the forest Goodman Brown notice that he had gone far from his home, and he wanted to return, but there was no way out of the forest. After he stops for some time, he begins to walk without realizing his physical action. “Too far! too far,’ exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk” (Hawthorne line 61). As they continue to embark on this road Goodman Brown came to a point where he refuses to continue walking along with the other traveler.
In summary, the story of Goodman Brown seems to be more dreamlike than realistic because from the beginning to the end of the story Hawthorne gives enough evidences that support the thesis of Goodman being in a dream. The fact that before he could leave for his journey, his wife started telling him how sacred she was about the dream she’s been having, and as you read along the story there are lot of characters and images that shows he was in a dream. Important examples like the meeting the older version of himself along the road, he could not leave the forest because the entrance he came through was no longer there, and the staff that the older man had turning into a snake. All these things are evidence proving that this was a dream. In the end his dream haunted him for the rest of his life, and he isolated himself from his from town people. Goodman could not distinguish between what was real or what was unreal because it was all blur. Brown dream was subconscious, and it made him believe that everyone around him was sinful.