Young Goodman Brown covers the experiences of Goodman Brown on the way from his village to the forest and his return to the village from sunset to sunrise. The village of Salem represents peace, knowledge, and strict moral values observed by the Puritans. Brown sets out to the forest manifesting an environment of terror and evil. Brown meets the devil in the forest. He also witnesses a witches gathering and is surprised to identify familiar and reputable people from his village among those at the meeting. Libidinal instincts drive him to leave the village. His evil desires lead him out of the place of values and into the place of evil. It is in the village where the conscious rules because of its moral and social order, whereas the forest is a location of unconsciousness. Throughout the journey, he struggles to seek his identity between a moral life guided by virtue and an evil life. The journey of Goodman Brown is illuminated by ego when he leaves the village, id when he enters the forest, and superego when he returns to the village.
How it works
The inner struggle of the main character in his search for identity can be explained by the Freudian psychological concepts of id, ego, and superego (Kline 23). Goodman Brown strives to toe the line of the Puritan town culture in all his actions and interactions. The strict adherence to the social structure of the town indicates that he represents ego. He has the opportunity to join the unholy congregation and celebrate or walk through the forest using the snake stick. He rejects the suggested pleasures flatly because he considers himself righteous. He believes that the celebrations offer short-term satisfaction but upholding righteousness contains the promise of a greater reward. He chooses not to join the congregation to avoid regrets. Similarly, as he interacts with the man with the walking stick, he also rejects the offer to have the tool that could help him walk fast and chooses to adhere to his Christian identity. Goodman refuses to even walk with the man and claims he is ashamed of being seen with the person whose identity is abhorred in the village he lives.
Beside this, the ego influence on Goodman is seen when he considers his desires against his social values. Despite being a newlywed, he leaves his wife and embarks on a journey with a resolve for ensuring the better future. He, however, misses her and even describes his wife as an angel on Earth with whom he has only shared one night. Goodman delays his immediate gratification with the hope that he will satisfy it in the future. When he passes through the forest, he ducks when he hears the voice of riding horses. He does so because of the social stigma against traveling in the woods. He chooses to be a respectable member of his society and foregoes the pleasure of walking right in the forest. The incident also shows he is a person who mediates between personal desires and social obligations.
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Goody Cloyse and Deacon Gookin represent id. They act against their social rules when they join the sinners for the celebration of initiation of new members (Hawthorne 6) although the social rules do not allow them to mix with them in their evil ceremonies. They join the celebrations to fulfill their pleasures even when they are prohibited by the social structures. They do not mind breaking the preset regulations that direct the actions of the townspeople. However, they conceal the unaccepted actions by flaunting the culturally accepted behaviors such as senior membership in the church. The townspeople are struggling with the search for identity because they neither fully fit the description of the townspeople or the description of the evil people.
Old Goodman acts in sharp contrast with Goodman Brown. He represents id as seen by his interactions and outward appearance by giving more priority to immediate gratification. Though he is old, he is clad as a younger person (Hawthorne 6). He is comfortable walking in the woods and follows his desires with less care about how the society perceives him. He does all that satisfies them without being restrained by societal values.
Goodman Brown gets into the struggle between the desire to join the wicked group and the conviction to uphold his social structure. His attention gets drawn to them when he witnesses the climax of the gathering to welcome the new members. As the old Goodman asks the new members to move forward, Goodman Brown begins to feel an attraction to the group he initially considered wicked (Hawthorne 11). He begins to feel like joining the group. He takes a step to approach the inner circle of the gathering and at some point, he believes that evil is the only happiness (12). For a while, the reader is made to believe that a person achieves happiness only when he steps out of the social structure. Goodman Brown's wishes to unify the two desires indicate a person in an identity crisis because he ends up in repression. On one part, he represents id by seeking chances to join the unholy group to obtain immediate happiness. On the other hand, he represents the superego because of the guilt he feels from the consequences of acting against his social principles.
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Id supersedes the superego when Goodman Brown joins the witches in the forest gathering. He is dismayed by the attendance of his wife Faith whose name denotes a Christian value. Therefore, when Brown loses his wife to the witches, it can be understood that he loses faith in God. The ego of Brown controlled his id at a time when Faith, the deacon, and Cloyse were the individuals he held as his moral idols. When he encountered these people in the forest evil meeting, the id defeated the ego. Brown pushed himself to a position where it was hard to decide whether he belonged to the Puritan faith or the devil. The resentment and withdrawal of Brown when he returns home indicates that superego had finally defeated id (Mitchell & Black 19). At the tail end of Brown's experience, his ego prevents him to confess his own desires. He then projects the evil on his wife who he previously considered as innocent. He refuses to recognize that evil and knowledge are inherent in human nature.
The story affirms the argument of Freud that the unconscious mind governs behavior. Brown did not know whether the forest congregation was a dream or a real happening. However, the dream did affect his behavior. The events of the night changed his worldview when he woke up the following morning. He got a better understanding of the inner desires of the village people. Henceforth, he viewed the actions of his townspeople as a cover-up of their evil nature. This explains why he shrank away from the saints when the minister came to bless him (Hawthorne 12). He could no longer march the unseen desires of the townspeople and his long-held social values. The events of the night had turned him to a distrustful man. The fearful dream which was an unconscious encounter significantly shaped his perception and engagement with people.
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In conclusion, the psychological concepts of ego, id, and superego are utilized to illuminate the encounters of Goodman traveling from his village to the forest and back. It is a journey from consciousness to unconsciousness aimed at discovering the universal human nature. As he slips into the world of unconsciousness, id influences his actions because he seeks to satisfy his immediate gratification with no regard for the consequences. At the initial stages of the entry into unconsciousness, ego dictates his actions as he refuses to engage in the activities that can cause regrets. After getting out of the state of unconsciousness, superego illuminates his behavior as he feels the guilt of the people in the town for masking evil. Though Brown embraces the reality that the people around him are evil inside, he denies the reality that evil is a part of human nature because he fails to admit his own unconscious guilt.