|Old Corner Bookstore|
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.