Young Goodman Brown, a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the 1968 thriller, Rosemary’s Baby, directed by Roman Polanski, are comparable texts, sharing a mutual critique of purity and faith. Young Goodman Brown is a dream-like narrative about a young protagonist who discovers the dishonesty of his community and the fraudulent nature of religion. Rosemary’s Baby presents the viewer with a romanticized portrayal of the American dream and then systemically tears it apart, exposing the psychological horror of living in an untrustworthy community. In both texts, the reliable, unquestionable, and essential parts of life are placed under a spotlight and analyzed, inducing anxiety from both the reader and the viewer alike.
Goodman Brown, the protagonist in Young Goodman Brown, leaves his new wife—Faith—at home and embarks on a strange journey through the woods. A journey that Hawthorne foreshadows with ominous language, like Faith’s constant pleas, asking Brown to put off his journey until morning, and Brown’s internal monologue as he walks away from her:
“‘She’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.’
With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose. He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind.”
The protagonists in Rosemary’s Baby, Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, are also a newlywed couple. Guy is a dynamic character, working on his goal to be an actor, while Rosemary fulfills her duty as the wide-eyed, feminine housewife, reflecting Faith’s character, whose only notable quality is “the pink ribbons” she wears on her cap. In both texts, women symbolize religious purity and naïveté. In both texts, Rosemary and Faith voice their concerns to their husbands, but they lack assertion and self-confidence. Their needs are not met.