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