Hayden's Ferry Review


Vacationing with "Young Goodman Brown"

It is finally summer time, and so the epic lists of what to read begin to appear. But instead of providing a book list of “what to read on the beach,” or of books that weigh less than half a pound so you won’t have to pay extra for luggage, we went to some of our contributing authors and found out what books spark their love for reading, and writing.

Old Corner Bookstore
As the days get longer, summer becomes fuel for travel, and these authors’ choices of books can be best read in various literary destinations where the inspiration is tangible. New England is a wonderful vacation spot filled with hidden literary wonders that span from early American literature to modern literary works. The stunning allure of New England has inspired, and shaped countless literary works. You can take a walk down Frost Trail, a 47 mile route in Massachusetts that is said to be the inspiration for much of Frost’s work. Other landmarks of literary interest are riddled throughout the east coast such as the Old Corner Bookstore in Boston, or even Longfellow National Historic Site.

Our first author Michael Powers (author of the story “Animal” which appeared in issue #48) did not originally understand the deep mystique of New England. Or the reason “Young Goodman Brown” blended the inner doubts of the protagonist with the very nature in which he was surrounded.
Like just about everyone else in America, I first read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” in the tenth grade. I remember not particularly liking the story at that time. Something about it—the clear terms of the allegory, the fact that the devil is an actual, walking, talking character—struck me as unsophisticated and quaint, particularly in a semester in which we also read Hemingway’s “The Killers” and William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning,” stories that seem almost tailor-made to appeal to sixteen-year-olds in the late nineties.
 But he kept coming back to Hawthorne’s story. He came to terms with the almost cartoonish figure of the devil to understand the alienation and doubts that Goodman Brown experiences.
 Hawthorne’s affable devil reminded me of a certain Rolling Stones song, and I felt, vaguely that the New Englander should have been posthumously embarrassed by the company he was keeping. Somehow, though, the story stuck with me despite my initial not-getting-it, and years later I found myself coming back to it, less interested in the allegorical conceit than in Goodman Brown's slowly accumulating moral loneliness. At the end of the story, the no longer young Goodman Brown is bewildered and irredeemably alone, not gifted, as the devil had promised, with the ability to see into the secret hearts of others, but acutely aware of what a closed book the heart of one's neighbor is.
It is hard to ignore the story’s location, the deeply mysterious and majestic presence of the forest. New England is not only filled with the inspiring landscape for writers such as Longfellow and Frost but it also contains the obscurity of human blunders and the foreboding sense of what can be encountered when alone in the forest. As a vacation spot New England provides mystery and wonder the literary adventurer, and perhaps a dark encounter in the woods.
Lauren Shapiro