Susan Isaacs believes that Ntozake Shange’s first novel, Sassafrass, Cypress
Characterization in Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown
Characterization in “Young Goodman Brown”
The dialogue, action and motivation revolve about the characters in the story (Abrams 32-33). It is the purpose of this essay to demonstrate the types of characters present in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” whether static or dynamic, whether flat or round, and whether protrayed through showing or telling.
There are only three well-developed, or three dimensional characters, in this short story, and they are the protagonist, Goodman Brown, and his wife, Faith, and the fellow-traveller or the devil. Faith is, of course, less well developed than her husband; much of her development comes from inference rather than from action,dialogue and explicitly expressed motivation as in the case of Goodman Brown.
From the very outset of the tale, Goodman is a person of action: “YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN came forth at sunset, into the street of Salem village, but put his head back, after crossing the threshold, to exchange a parting kiss with his young wife.” The reader sees him develop emotionally even as he walks away towards the woods:
So they parted; and the young man pursued his way, until, being about to turn the corner by the meeting-house, he looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him, with a melancholy air, in spite of her pink ribbons.
“Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I, to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought, as she spoke, there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight. But, no, no! ‘twould kill her to think it. Well; she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I’ll cling to h…
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…h these grave, reputable, and pious people, these elders of the church, these chaste dames and dewy virgins, there were men of dissolute lives and women of spotted fame, wretches given over to all mean and filthy vice, and suspected even of horrid crimes.
In this essay on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” we have seen that the narrator’s use of the showing technique presents two dynamic characters, three round characters and a host of undeveloped, static characters.
Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” 1835. http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~daniel/amlit/goodman/goodmantext.html
Wagenknecht, Edward. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Man, His Tales and Romances. New York: Continuum Publishing Co., 1989.