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Predmore, R., Jr. (1977). ‘Young Goodman Brown’ Night journey into the forest. J. Anal. Psychol., 22(3):250-257.

(1977). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 22(3):250-257

‘Young Goodman Brown’ Night journey into the forest

Richard Predmore, Jr., Ph.D.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown the hero's initiation involves a ‘night journey’ that is similar in significance to the hero's night journey in mythology. This frightening experience, according to C. G. Jung, represents the hero's descent into the unconscious, which, he says, ‘is the situation of the primitive hero who is devoured by the dragon’ (JUNG 9, p. 333, pp. 329-39). ‘The purpose of the descent as universally exemplified in the myth of the hero is to show that only in the region of danger (watery abyss, cavern, forest, island, castle, etc.) can one find the “treasure hard to attain” (jewel, virgin, life-potion, victory over death)’ (Ibid., p. 335). Those who make the descent, continues Jung, are temporarily ‘over-powered by the unconscious and are helplessly abandoned, which means that they have volunteered to die in order to beget a new and fruitful life in that region of the psyche which has hitherto lain fallow in darkest unconscious’ (ibid., p. 334).

Many critics have interpreted young Goodman Brown's night journey into the forest as a descent into the unconscious, although this has usually been read from the Freudian theory of the unconscious (CREWS 4, pp. 98-106; ADAMS 1, pp. 39-57; MALE 12, pp. 76-80), which holds that this part of the psyche contains repressions that are usually sexual in nature. This view has proved fruitful, since Hawthorne does attribute sexual overtones to the witche's coven.

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