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Young Goodman Brown Essay, Research Paper

?Young Goodman Brown?

“Young Goodman Brown”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a moralizing story. Hawthorne

shows us the great importance of our faith in God, our family and friends, and at length ourselves.

The plight of Goodman Brown indicates that without our ?faith? we are unable to live life to the

fullest possible extent. Faith is our key to happiness.

“Young Goodman Brown” begins with Goodman Brown about to depart for an ?errand?

that will take the evening. Faith, Brown’s wife, asks him not to go, the feeling she has is not a

good one. Goodman Brown says to his “love and Faith”, “this one night I must tarry away from

thee.” When he says his “love” and “Faith”, he is talking to his wife, but he is also speaking of his

faith in God. It is ultimately revealed that this so-called ?errand? Brown is on is to encounter the

Devil. By doing so, he leaves his unquestionable faith in God back in Salem along with his loving

wife. He resolves that he will “cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.” This shows how

confident he is, that no matter what occurs on this night everything will be fine. The irony to this

promise is that when Goodman Brown comes back at dawn, he can no longer look at his wife, or

anyone for that matter, with the same faith he had before.

One of the individuals Brown encountered on his journey had with him a staff that “bore

the likeness of a great black snake”. The staff which looked like a snake is a reference to the

snake in the story of Adam and Eve. The snake led Adam and Eve to their demise by tricking

them into eating the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. The Adam and Eve story is similar to

Goodman Brown in that they are both in search of something. Once Eve ate from the Tree of

Knowledge they were expelled from their paradise. The Devil’s staff eventually leads Goodman

Brown to the Devil’s ceremony which destroys Goodman Brown’s faith in his fellow man, thus

disrupting the happiness in Goodman Brown?s life.

When Goodman Brown finally meets with the Devil, he declares that the reason he was

late was because “Faith kept me back awhile.” This statement has a double meaning because his

wife physically prevented him from being on time for his meeting with the devil, but his faith in

God psychologically delayed him as well. After realizing what was going on, he almost

immediately declares that he no longer wishes to continue on his errand. He says that he comes

from a “race of honest men and good Christians” and his father had never gone on this errand, nor

will he ever. The Devil is quick to point out, however, that he was with his father and grandfather

when they were flogging a woman or burning an Indian village, respectively. This is the beginning

of the doubt that clouds Goodman Brown?s mind. Stricken with doubt Goodman Brown begins

to think to himself about his situation. He thinks about his life in Salem; his loving wife, and the

wonderful life he leads. ?What a calm sleep would be his…in the arms of Faith!” Once again the


As Goodman Brown is feeling good about his strength in resisting the Devil, he hears the

voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin. He overhears their conversation, discussing a “goodly

young woman to be taken in to communion” that evening. Brown fears greatly that it may be his

Faith. When Goodman Brown hears this he becomes weak and falls to the ground. He “begins to

doubt whether there really was a Heaven above him”. Once again his faith begins to leave him, or

let him down. Yet, in panic, he declares that “With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet

stand firm against the devil!” Again, Brown makes a promise to keep his faith unto God. Then “a

black mass of cloud” comes between Brown and the sky, as if to block his prayer from heaven.

Brown now begins to hear familiar voices. A voice of a woman can be heard faintly, he

believes this to be Faith. He begins to call out her name, but to no avail, his rants are merely

mimicked by the echoes of the forest, as if his cries just floated away. A pink ribbon flies through

the air and Goodman grabs it. At this moment, he has lost all faith in the world and declares that

there is “no good on earth.” Young Goodman Brown in this scene is easily manipulated by the

power of suggestion. The suggestion that the woman in question is his Faith, and because of this,

he easily loses his faith.

Goodman Brown then loses all of his inhibitions and begins to laugh insanely. He takes

hold of the staff which causes him to “fly along the forest path”. Hawthorne at this point remarks

about “the instinct that guides mortal man to evil”. This is a direct statement from the author that

he believes that man’s natural inclination is to lean to evil than good. Goodman Brown had at this

point lost his faith in God, therefore there was nothing restraining his instincts from moving

towards evil because his marvelous image of society was shattered. At this point, Goodman

Brown goes mad and challenges evil. He feels that he will be the downfall of evil and that he is

strong enough to overcome it all. He believes that he is better than everyone else in that he alone

can destroy evil.

Finally Brown comes upon the ceremony which is setup like a perverted Puritan temple.

The altar was a rock in the middle of the congregation and there were four trees surrounding the

congregation with their tops ablaze, like candles. A red light rose and fell over the congregation

which cast a veil of evil over the congregation, the devil worshippers. He takes notice of all the

faces that he sees in the service and he recognizes them all, but he then realizes that he does not

see Faith and “hope came into his heart”.

The ceremony then begins with a a cry to “Bring forth the converts!” Surprisingly

Goodman Brown steps forward. “He had no power to retreat one step, nor to resist, even in

thought…”. Goodman Brown at this point seems to be in a trance and loses control of his body as

he unconsciously enters this service of converts to the devil. The leader of the service addresses

the crowd of converts in a disturbing manner. He informs them that all the members of the

congregation are the righteous, honest, and incorruptible of the community. After his sermon, the

leader informs them to look upon each other and Goodman Brown finds himself face to face with

Faith. The leader begins again, declaring that “Evil is the nature of mankind” and he welcomes

the converts to “communion of your race”. (The “communion of your race” statement reflects to

the irony of Brown’s earlier statement that he comes from “a race of honest men and good

Christians.”) The leader then dips his hand in the rock to draw a liquid from it and “to lay the

mark of baptism upon their foreheads”. Brown then snaps out from his trance and yells “Faith!

Faith! Look up to Heaven and resist the wicked one!” At this point, the ceremony ends and

Brown finds himself alone. It is unclear to Brown if his frantic plea, begging her to resist the

Devil, was successful. Nonetheless he is alone. Alone in the forest and alone in his faith.

“Young Goodman Brown” ends with Brown returning to Salem at early dawn and looking

around like a “bewildered man.” He cannot believe that he is in the same place he had just been

the night before. He felt like an outsider in a world of Devil worshippers. He comes back to the

town “projecting his guilt onto those around him.” He is unable to accept the world in which he

lives, after wintessing the ceremony. He now sees the evil in everyone and expresses his

discomfort with his community, even his loving wife Faith. This anger is exemplified when he

sees Faith. She is overwhelmed with excitement to see him, but he looks “sternly and sadly into

her face, and passed on without a greeting.” Brown cannot even stand to look at his wife with

whom he was at the convert service with. He feels that even though he was at the Devil’s service,

he is still better than everyone else because of his excessive pride.

Goodman Brown was devastated by the discovery that the potential for evil resides in

everybody. The rest of his life is destroyed because of his inability to face this truth and live with

it. He is stricken with doubt and his faith is lost. He lives in fear for the rest of his days. What

Brown witnessed in the forest may have been a dream, a hallucination, or not, but nevertheless it

planted the seed of doubt in his mind which consequently cut him off from his fellow man and left

him alone and depressed. His life ends alone and miserable because somewhere in that forest he

left his faith behind, unable to overcome the terrible consequences of his journey and thus losing

all hope.

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