Fading Reliance

Stone 1
Adrian Stone
Mr. Pistner
American Literature
30 October 2018
Fading Reliance
In “Young Goodman Brown” by Hawthorne, Brown does not initially think or express
individualism and non-conformity as defined by Ralph Waldo Emerson in “Self-Reliance.”
Eventually however, Goodman Brown’s character changes to become more individualist, no
longer as reliant on his community and others. Emerson articulates self-reliance as a need for an
individual to avoid conformity in order to discover one’s true self because “imitation is suicide”
(Emerson 550). Later when Brown returns to the village, he appears to be distant and not
conformed to the community as he was prior, showing him to be more self-reliant.
When Goodman Brown spies Deacon Gookin and the minister in the forest, he is
disturbed by what he thinks to be a devilish conversation the two are partaking in. After he
overhears what they are saying, his world is flipped by two people whom he thought to be pious.
Goodman Brown then immediately resorts to reliance, immediately catching “hold of a tree, for
support” (Hawthorne 624). Brown holding on the tree “for support” symbolizes his reliance on
others and his inability to support himself without external influence.
At the powwow in the forest, Goodman Brown finds himself unable to break from his
reliance on others and succumbs to evil and the devil. On the altar, the narrator says, “he [Young
Goodman Brown] had no power to retreat one step, nor to resist, even in thought, when the
minister and good old deacon Gookin, seized his arms, and led him to the blazing rock
(Hawthorne 627). The narrator’s description of how powerless Goodman Brown is in reaction to
Stone 2
the forces of evil shows his innate reliance on the larger group and his inability to act as an
individual. The use of the word “led” to describe Gookin’s actions demonstrates how Brown is a
follower and is voluntarily taken to the blazing rock. Hawthorne further exemplifies Brown’s
powerlessness by writing that he is bound “even in thought,” showing how subconscious and
deeply rooted is Brown’s reliance on others.
Faith in “Young Goodman Brown” is portrayed as a double entendre, literally as religion
and figuratively, as Goodman Brown’s wife in Hawthorne’s short story. After Brown leaves his
wife, he is ever reliant on brandishing his Faith against forces of conceived evil: “With Heaven
above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” (624). Instead of standing alone
with confidence before the devil, Brown shows his reliance on Faith and his religion. However
later, after Brown cries, “My Faith is gone!” (625), he shows individualism and empowerment,
as if a weight was lifted off of him: “Come witch, come wizard, come Indian powwow, come
devil himself!” (625). Brown beckons for these forces to come to him, without any hesitation or
regard to someone else for acknowledgement. He no longer needs to “expiate, but to live”
(Emerson 552) to others, showing the beginning of his transition to a more Emersonian selfreliant and individualist character.
After the powwow and the events surrounding it, Goodman Brown returns to the village
and is depicted by Hawthorne as distant, “staring around him like a bewildered man” (628). His
state of bewilderment shows that he is no longer in a state of conformity with his homogenous
community and stands out. At the end of the story, the narrator describes the ending of Goodman
Brown’s life and how the community viewed him, giving insight into how he had acted: “borne
to his grave…followed by Faith, an aged woman, and children and grandchildren…they carved
no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom” (628). The conclusion of
Stone 3
Goodman Brown’s life shows that his later self-reliance and individualism is recognized by the
Salem community but not celebrated or accepted by many. The Puritan’s spirit of hopefulness
and optimism in not exemplified in Brown so consequently he does not receive a “hopeful verse
upon his tombstone,” cementing his individualist and non-conforming nature to the grave. In all,
Young Goodman Brown develops Emersonian self-reliance through the events surrounding the
fateful journey and transitions to become a non-conforming member of his community.