Stepping away from the brews for a bit, the next item on my Halloween countdown is a short story from the famed American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne published in 1835. I want to send a major thank you out to my wife on this for not only helping me through a writer’s block, but for also remembering that she had this story in an anthology she saved from our college days.
Set in the Puritan town of Salem, MA this is the story of a young man named Goodman Brown and his wife Faith. One evening, Goodman Brown meets with a mysterious traveler with a serpentine walking stick. They then proceed to walk through a dark, foreboding forest on an errand our protagonist fearfully describes as evil. He eventually arrives at the scene of a dark ritual in which many of his fellow townsfolk, known sinners and esteemed church officials alike, are participating. Shaken by what he sees, Goodman returns a changed and bitter man.
This was solid recommendation from my wife and a very interesting read. Despite being only 10 pages long, there was a lot packed into this tale. The dark imagery is established early and often to cast a particularly eerie and ominous feeling over the story. Also, as with any tale of Puritanism, confrontation with sin runs explicitly rampant throughout and is the motivating force and concern of all involved and makes the experiences of Goodman seem very internalized and personal despite the seemingly external nature of the threat. I imagine much has been much discussion and analysis of this work over the years so I’ll skip all that and just close my two big questions:
- Where did Goodman meet the Traveler and what was he expecting to happen when they met in the woods? It seemed early on that it was to be some sort of scandalous rendezvous than admission to a dark communion.
- How much of this “really” happened and how much was just a dream/hallucination fueled by hyper religious society?
If you’ve read this, please feel free to comment on these below!
(Image Source: https://images.app.goo.gl/ZQoxShyE3RHiDRct6)