Tuesday Terror! Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Oh, ye of little faith…

young-goodman-brown-cover

For this spookiest week of the year, where best to head but to that town whose name will be forever associated with witchcraft and devil-worship. Salem! Birthplace to Nathaniel Hawthorne, himself descended from one of the men who interrogated the Salem witches and helped send them to their death. So this story seems like a perfect choice for this week’s…

Tuesday Terror 2

Young Goodman Brown
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Dearest heart,” whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, “prithee put off your journey until sunrise and sleep in your own bed to-night. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she’s afeard of herself sometimes. Pray tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year.”

Young Goodman Brown resists this pathetic plea from Faith, his pretty, loving young wife, and heads off into the forest just outside the town. We soon learn that evil is afoot…

“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 to-night. But, no, no! ‘twould kill her to think it.”

He begins his journey through the dark and gloomy trees…

It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.

spooky woods

Suddenly he sees a man sitting beneath a tree. They recognise each other, and it transpires the meeting is not by chance. They are both going to a meeting in the middle of the forest in the dead of night. (It doesn’t really bode well, does it? And it gets worse…) The older man, it appears, is the Devil himself, in human form…

But the only thing about him that could be fixed upon as remarkable was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent. This, of course, must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the uncertain light.

…and Goodman Brown is on his way to be taken into communion with those who worship him. But the Goodman is doubtful. He thinks of all the good people of the town and how hard it will be to look them in the eye on the morrow – and he thinks of his Faith, sweet, gentle creature, waiting anxiously for him to come home.

But the Devil tells him he will not be alone in the town, and reveals the sins of many of those Goodman Brown has looked up to all his life…

“…here are they all, in my worshipping assembly! This night it shall be granted you to know their secret deeds; how hoary-bearded elders of the church have whispered wanton words to the young maids of their households; how many a woman, eager for widow’s weeds, has given her husband a drink at bed-time, and let him sleep his last sleep in her bosom; how beardless youth have made haste to inherit their father’s wealth; and how fair damsels – blush not, sweet ones – have dug little graves in the garden, and bidden me, the sole guest, to an infant’s funeral.”

young-goodman-brown
Illustration by Micah Clegg

Still Goodman Brown holds out, the thought of Faith holding him firm in his resolve. But the Devil has more to tempt him with yet…

* * * * * * *

Well! This is a great little story, very well written and full of wickedness and evil. But the message! What exactly is the message? It appears that if one goes over to the dark-side one might be damned for eternity but otherwise everything will be quite jolly. But if one rejects the Devil and all his works, one is destined to be a miserable old so-and-so for the rest of one’s life and die in gloom and despondency! I was expecting it all to end either horrifically or with a big dose of uplift. Instead it’s totally depressing! Oh dear!

“Lo, there ye stand, my children,” said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad with its despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race. “Depending upon one another’s hearts, ye had still hoped that virtue were not all a dream. Now are ye undeceived. Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome again, my children, to the communion of your race.”

Yeah, fine, Hawthorne, but you could have put up a bit of an argument, surely! I mean, he’s the Devil, for goodness sake! He’s bound to have a slightly skewed outlook on life!

Illustration by Corinna Roberts
Illustration by Corinna Roberts

Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do a bit of sinning. No point wasting any more time trying to be good…

(Having got that off my chest, actually I think it’s a great story – but have some medicinal chocolate on hand to aid recovery. That’s where I made my mistake!)

If you’d like to read it (about 5000 words), here’s a link.

* * * * * * *

Fretful Porpentine rating:  😯 😯 😯

Overall story rating:            😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

No wonder the porpentine's praying!
No wonder the porpentine’s praying!

43 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

  1. Oooh I think I will enjoy reading this, right up my street! My, Hawthorn is a rare looking fellow – managing to carry off both mad hair AND a mad moustache! This is the type of gentleman who could easily lead a girl into sin. The end is a bit of a cop-out, but hey ho – let’s all go to a meeting in the middle of a wood anyway! 😉

    • These moustaches must have made eating cream cakes a nightmare – although always good to store some of the cream in for midnight snacking! Haha! They didn’t even get to have a nice sinful orgy – it was more like a Chuch of Scotland sermon on a wet Sunday afternoon. We should go there and teach them how to sin properly! You bring the wine, I’ll bring the whisky…

      • Woohoo! This is my kind of day out! I’m totally there – I’m great at sin 🙂
        On a completely unrelated note – I found Hugh Fraser on Twitter today, which has delighted me no end. I’m going to stalk him a bit. Did you know he has written two books? I am scared to read them in case they are bad! Perhaps he could could come sinning with us? He is still looking very dapper and after some wine and whiskey I could easily be convinced he was Hastings 😀

        • I think I did hear that ages ago. In fact, and I may be confusing him with someone else here, but I think I saw him being interviewed about his first book and it sounded as if it was either incredibly full of sex or incredibly full of gore – can’t remember which, but I remember thinking goodness! The ones with the sweetest faces are always the worst…!

          But I may be maligning the poor chap by confusing him with someone else – must check out his books. And I’m all for him joining us so long as Poirot doesn’t come along to make up the foursome. Much though I love him, I feel he could be a bit of a wet blanket…

          • Oh my if his books are full of sex and violence I will read them – but I won’t be able to help hearing Hastings’ clipped tones in the narrative – haha! That would be an experience. I have also discovered that the lovely Hugh co-wrote the theme tune to Rainbow. How random is that?! There is literally no end to the man’s talents.
            Goodness, Poirot would be no good at all in such a situation. I don’t what would be worse – him lecturing us on the evils of sinful behaviour or possibly throwing caution to the wind and joining in with gusto! We’d be better off bringing Japp – he looks like he might enjoy a bit of sin 😉

            • I checked him out on Amazon and they do seem to be pretty violent – gangs and stuff. But they’ve also got a really high rating! I wonder if he did the narration of the audiobook versions… *checks*… No! How odd! You must read them and tell me whether they’re any good. Ha! A man of many talents clearly!

              Haha! Yes! I think Japp would probably enjoy a little sin break – but for goodness sake, let’s make sure nobody invites Catchpool!

            • No way! I cannot believe it of our Hugh! I’m going to read them, definitely – as the author is a hero of mine, it might warrant my first ever book review!! Oh how I would have LOVED him to have narrated them. I’ll keep you posted, I was going to start on the new Sophie Hannah but I think I’ll get straight onto one of these instead.
              Blimey, Catchpool would probably faint at the first sign of anything slightly rambunctious. Mind you, we could leave him in the woods and maybe Poirot could investigate his disappearance. Although he’d probably be glad to see the back of him, too. 😀

            • I wonder why he didn’t narrate them – seems very strange! Well, thank goodness he’s saved you from Ctachpool – the man is clearly a superhero!

              Haha! Wouldn’t it be nice if someone did a pastiche of Hannah’s pastiche of Christie with Catchpool as the victim? The suspect list would be enormous…

            • Why do you have to make that suggestion just as I am heading into the editing wilderness?! I would LOVE to write that!! You and I would be prime suspects -but it’s never the most obvious person, of course. I would have either Poirot or a wrathful Hastings as the culprits – or perhaps Miss Lemon! Aaargh I’m not going to be able to stop plotting this, now. Once I’m done with the Tony Blair thing, I’ll see if I can get a half-decent novella out of it and pop it on the blog. Genius you are, FF!
              Gutted he didn’t narrate them. Maybe they are full of F-words and violence and he couldn’t bring himself to do it. I’ll let you know what they’re like, I can’t wait 🙂

            • Haha! You definitely should!! I am arranging my alibi as we speak! Altenatively, I’m more than willing to provide an alibi to the culprit – a crime I’d be proud to be an accessory to… 😉

              I hope they don’t take as long to arrive as Magpie Murders did…

            • Aha, the double bluff! Anyway, I see it ending with the big reveal – of course – but Japp deciding to record a verdict of accidental death (even though he has been choked to death by having crosswords shoved down his throat) and everyone goes to the pub. I have actually started making notes…

  2. Ooh, I love the GIF with the blinking eyes and hooded creatures hiding behind trees!! I haven’t read this one, but I’ll bet many an English teacher would love to dissect it, beginning to end. It rather sounds like one of those morality tales, doesn’t it? Well, ’tis nice seeing Mr. Porpentine once again!

    • Haha! I’ve used that GIF before, but I love it so much I had to use it again! I really thought it was going to be a morality tale – and it is – but I was really expecting it to show that good people were happier than sinners, not the other way round! I suspect he was having a really bad day when he wrote it… 😉

  3. More Hawthorne, please. I think you just answered a question I’ve had about getting to know one author better in 2017. I have a list going and he’s definitely at the top now 🙂 So thanks for that!

    • Certainly this would tempt me to read more of him – I’m ashamed to say it’s my very first venture into Hawthorne territory though The Scarlet Letter is on one of my lists – Classics or Great American Novels… or possibly both! Hope we both enjoy him! 🙂

  4. Well this is my type of story, particularly as it comes with the eyes in the dark GIF! I have always suspected that sinners have the best time and this story confirms that thought – shame I can’t shake off my puritan values to properly join in – I’ll have a medicinal chocolate instead 😉

    • Haha! I love that GIF – can you tell? Well, from the comments it looks as though we have enough aspiring sinners to make a great party! My problem with sin is that really I’d rather be reading… which is rather sad… 😉

    • Haha! Couldn’t agree more! I think we could probably get a nice group of bloggers together for a sinful little party and then we can all write repentance posts the next day and forgive each other… 😉

  5. Oh, FictionFan, this is creepy! And a perfect choice for Tuesday Terror, that’s for sure. I’ve always thought Salem had so very much mystique, and this is just another great example of that. And it’s delightfully bleak, too, if that makes sense.

    • It’s a good one, even if it didn’t quite go in the direction I thought it was heading! But devil-worshippers, woods at night and Salem – what more could you ask from a horror story really? The porpentine enjoyed it…

    • I’ve never read him though The Scarlet Letter has been on my list for ages, but I was impressed by this one! Haha! I know! I love that GIF so much. It will inevitably appear again sometime… 😉

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