"Young Goodman Brown" Review
My classmates hated Joyce’s “The Dead” and the same holds true for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown.” Now, I have terrible, terrible memories of Hawthorne from reading The Scarlet Letter back in high school. No offense if you like that book - I despised it. Maybe if I give it another shot, I’ll find something to like.
Anyway, “Young Goodman Brown” is a pretty dark short story. It’s about a man (Goodman Brown) sneaking out into the woods with the devil and the consequences Brown faces. I’m a fan of dark stories and if it’s got the devil, I’ll probably like it. But “Young Goodman Brown” is incredibly predictable. You can probably guess what’s going to happen from the first couple of pages and Hawthorne doesn’t try and fool the reader at all.
The final paragraph, however, comes out of nowhere and makes the story worth your time. “Young Goodman Brown” sticks to the unity of time for most of the work. That is, it’s all happening in one night and there aren’t random jumps in time. But then in the last paragraph, decades pass as the rest of Brown’s life is told in just a few sentences… and it really packs a punch. I think “Young Goodman Brown” has one of the most memorable final sentences of any work of literature. It’s dark, depressing, and appropriate.
I apologize again if you hate this story. After all, it’s considered a “classic” and it’s old, so it likely won’t appeal to everybody. It didn’t appeal to me until I gave it a chance.
If you want to brave it, you can read it online for free or order a book of Hawthorne’s short stories (for 90 cents!? What!). I’m about to read a few more of his stories, so I’ll let you know if they’re any good.
If you do read it, tell me if you like it - I’d like to know I’m not the only one!