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Setting and It’s Effect on Understanding Young Goodman Brown

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Essay title: Setting and It’s Effect on Understanding Young Goodman Brown

Matt Fondriest

Fiction Paper


Setting and its Effect on Understanding Young Goodman Brown

Every tale ever told shares similar formal elements. All of these formal elements have equally important consequence on a story. The setting of a story has direct correlations to the way that the reader consumes the meaning of the story. The setting in Young Goodman Brown allows its author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, to leave the ending ambiguous, without closure. The reader is constantly expected to decide for themselves truth. Literal interpretation, widely accepted after its initial publication, respected the story as a puritan fable. The message of which: Without faith in God you are defenseless against the evils of the world. This paper is written with the understanding that Young Goodman Brown left his faith at home and ventured to meet the devil in the godless wild. The devil has earned a reputation of being the worst of all tricksters. On the worst night of the year, along the scariest path outside of the birthplace of American witches, Young Goodman Brown met the devil and the devil played a terrible trick on him, or did he? Whether this apparition was a dream or a reality, the devil cursed Young Goodman Brown with a life long distrust of all those around him for his troubles. The setting of Young Goodman Brown is essential in achieving the uncertainty of actual events regarding the end of the story.

If we believe that God above is the all powerful good force in the world than the devil must fill the evil void. On Earth it is typically accepted that both God and the devil have absolute power. The most haunted town in America at the time of publication was Salem, Massachusetts. It wasn’t by coincidence that Hawthorne chose Salem as the setting for his ghost story; he had family ties to the very events which made Salem infamous. So he sets the story in a forest outside the town of witches still inhabited by devilish Indians. The forest is an important part of the setting as well. The forest in those days seemed vast and endless and much of it remained unexplored and foreign. Safety was achieved by living in communities. Those who chose to wander into the forest oftentimes never returned. The early Americans did not trust the Native Americans or their ancient religions and practices. The settlers believed them to be the devils servants.

In this setting no illusion is beyond the devils control. Without his faith, Goodman Brown is helpless to resist the wickedness of the devil.. Hawthorne alludes to devil’s magic by comparing his own staff as the very one the Egyptian magicians transformed to a serpent. A witch who lost her broomstick appears along the path. Her identity: the old lady who taught young Goodman Brown his catechism. Goodman Brown sees the evil in everyone because

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