Masks of Mankind

A student submission on June’s theme of Good versus Evil

Author: Jason Wu 

A vast amount of people hide their true thoughts unless they are alone. The duality of man is the idea that mankind has both good and evil within. People hide their feelings to fit around with others or to keep relationships stable, and people hide secrets from others in order to protect themselves or others, even if they hate the ones they are protecting. People act to be someone they are not truly in order to hide those feelings or secrets. The short story “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne expresses how people act when they think no one is watching or listening, and I argue using “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, mankind expresses the balance of good versus evil with the use of various masks to protect themselves and to hide their true selves. 

The use of different masks is apparent in “Young Goodman Brown”. An example of characters using a mask is Goody Cloyse and Deacon Gookin. As Goodman Brown travels through the forest, he finds Goody Cloyse. Goody Cloyse is seen as a “very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught … catechism” (Hawthorne 4), as Goodman Brown’s companion talks to Goody Cloyse. She proceeds to insult Goodman Brown’s family and reveal herself as a witch. Traveling further into the forest, Goodman Brown finds Deacon Gookin, who reveals himself as a devil worshiper through his excited talks about going to the witches meeting. Deacons are authoritative members of the church, and to be caught practicing devil worship as a highly reputable church member would result in severe punishment or even death. Mankind uses masks similarly to Goody Cloyse and Deacon Gookin. Being found out as a witch would get Goody Cloyse killed, she uses a mask to conceal her dark identity, showing good by acting as a reputable catholic woman, and Deacon Gookin would be severely punished or killed for devil worship but is concealed as an authoritative church member. Mankind uses masks to conceal their darker secrets or identities the same as Goody Cloyse or Deacon Gookin, An example of mankind using a mask would be a criminal acting innocent and on the outside appearing as if they do no wrong, just as Goody Cloyse acting as “a pious and exemplary dame” (Hawthorne 4). In reality the criminal is a serial killer, or a person wanting to avoid a confrontation with others by pretending to have similar interests and ideals showing innocence, similar to Goody Cloyse being a witch and pretending to be innocent to avoid confrontation or Deacon Gookin committing devil worship while pretending to be a worshiper of god. The usage of masks have been prevalent to the survival of mankind, to avoid dangers or confrontations, while never revealing their true self. 

The true self of a person is the dark secrets and real thoughts of an individual. People who use masks, hide their true self, concealing the truth of what they are and what they have done. The act of hiding one’s true self is present within “Young Goodman Brown”. Many of the characters are hiding a different identity behind the one they show to others openly. During Goodman Brown’s travel through the forest, he finds Goody Cloyse and later on, Deacon Gookin. As Goodman Brown finds these characters, they are revealed as devil worshippers. As the true self is the dark secrets of an individual, being dangerous to reveal said secrets, both characters only reveal a bit of their true self when they believe they are alone, such as Goody Cloyse talking about her broomstick being stolen by another witch named Goody Cory along with recognizing Goodman Brown’s companion to be the devil, and the devil responding with, “Then Goody Cloyse knows her old friend” (Hawthorne 4). Deacon Gookin excitedly goes to the witch’s meeting, saying he “rather miss an ordination dinner than to-night’s meeting” (Hawthorne 6). A person’s true self will never be fully revealed to anyone, but themselves. As though learning about Goody Cloyse and Deacon Gookin’s darker sides, there is no knowing what they do besides devil worship, such as Deacon Gookin could be killing innocents without purpose. Mankind does the same as both Goody Cloyse and Deacon Gookin, hiding information about their true self, lying to others about their dark secrets, and acting as a different identity to who they truly are. Mankind hides their true self as a way of protecting themselves from harm, as if people find out about terrible deeds done by another, the person caught would be in danger, an example is a serial killer getting caught would lead to the killer being sentenced to death. A person will only reveal their true self if they believe to be alone to avoid exposing themselves as an evil person. 

The short story “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathanial Hawthorne has shown the use of masks and the concealment of one’s true self to express the balance of good versus evil within mankind, compared to mankind using masks and concealing one’s true self. With examples of characters using different masks to fit in with people, to avoid the dangers of being devil worshippers. Mankind uses masks just as the characters do. To avoid dangers and confrontations, by using a mask, and by doing so mankind has abstained itself from dangers. As how characters in “Young Goodman Brown” hide their identities from others, posing as a reputable person while in reality doing evil, Their true self is still hidden. A person can find out the darker sides of others, but will never find the full truth. Goody Cloyse and Deacon Gookin are devil worshippers, there is no telling what else they do, or think about. Mankind, like Goody Cloyse and Deacon Gookin, will share small pieces of one’s true self, but will never tell anyone the full truth. Dangers and confrontations between people will never end for mankind, to combat this, mankind uses masks and the concealment of one’s true self to fit in within expectations of people.

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