April 11, 2000
The Young GoodMan Brown
Young Goodman Brown, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a story that is rich in metaphors which ultimately question the very morals and ethics of his religious society. In Young Goodman Brown, Goodman Brown is a proud Puritan who meets with the devil that causes him to become aware of the society he lives in. The story about Goodman Brown centers on a proud man who thinks that a meeting with the Devil cant alter his faith in religion. He also desires to find more about his inner domains, but eventually finds out how hypocritical his community is. The storys crux is based upon religious metaphors of Hawthorne’s town of Salem during their religious conflict.
The beginning of the story mentions the Goodman’s wife, Faith who has a double meaning to her name. Goodmans name also should not be overlooked because it is a double-edged sword as well. Hawthorne plays with Faiths name in that it symbolizes religious faith. Faith- Goodmans wife- is seen as a pious woman who like Goodman, is deep into her religious beliefs. She is innocent like her religion. To indicate Faiths innocence, Hawthorne gave her pink ribbons to wear. These ribbons are important, because they expose Faiths character. Pink is seen as a pleasant color that promotes no tension. Pink is not as violent as red, or gloomy as black. In addition, there is Goodman.” His name represents what his society thought of him. He was a religious good person, who came from a long linage of prominent Puritans.
Young Goodman Brown begins when Faith, Brown’s wife, pleads with him not to go on his errand.” Goodman Brown says to his love and my Faith (passage 5) that this one night I must tarry away from thee (passage 5). When he says his love and his Faith,” he is talking to his wife, but he is also talking to his faith in God. He is venturing into the woods to meet with the Devil, and by doing so; he leaves his unquestionable faith in God with his wife. He resolves that he will cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven (passage 5). This is an example of his excessive pride. He feels that he can meet with the Devil because of the promise that he made to himself. There is tremendous irony to this promise because when Goodman Brown comes back at dawn; he can no longer look at his wife with the same faith he had in her before.
Throughout literature, authors continue to use metaphors like darkness, sunsets, colors, paths, and nature to help illustrate their hidden thoughts. This tool is supposed to give the reader the feeling of something evil, or negative commencing. Goodmans errand sends him off into the wild forest during the sunset where he is walking on a narrow dark path that is easy to lose. The forest is a place where there are no rules to life, and a place where nature can turn against civilized humans.
When Goodman Brown finally meets with the Devil, he declares that his reason for being late was because Faith kept me back awhile (passage 10). 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 to God psychologically delayed his meeting with the devil.
The Devil had with him a staff that bore the likeness of a great black snake” (passage 10). The staff is a reference to the snake in the story of Adam and Eve. The snake led Adam and Eve to their destruction by leading them to the Tree of Knowledge. The Adam and Eve story is similar to Goodman Brown in that they are both seeking immeasurable amounts of knowledge. Once Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they were exiled from paradise. The Devil’s staff eventually leads Goodman Brown to the Devil’s ceremony, which destroys Goodman Brown’s faith in his fellow man, therefore expelling him from his utopia.
Goodman Brown almost immediately declares that he kept his meeting with the Devil and no longer wishes to continue on his errand with the Devil. He says that he comes from a race of honest men and good Christians and that his father had never gone on this errand and nor will he. Conversely, the Devil is quick to point out that he was with his father and grandfather when they were whipping a woman or burning an Indian village. These acts are ironic in that they were bad deeds done in the name of good, or God It shows that he does not come from good Christians.
Goodman Brown’s first excuse not to carry on with the errand proves to be unconvincing; he says he cannot go because of his wife, Faith.” At this point the Devil agrees with him and tells him to turn back to prevent that Faith should come to any harm (passage 35) like the old woman in front of them on the path. Consequently, Goodman Brown’s faith is harmed because the woman on the path is the woman who taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser (passage 35). Afterward, Brown continues to walk with the Devil in the disbelief of what he had just witnessed. He blames the woman for consorting with the Devil but his own pride stops him from realizing that his faults are the same as the woman’s.
Brown again decides that he will no longer to continue on his errand. He rationalizes that just because his teacher was not going to heaven, why should he quit my dear Faith, and go after her (passage 40). In response, the Devil tosses Goodman Brown his staff (which will lead him out of Eden) and leaves him.
Goodman Brown begins to think to himself about his situation and his pride in himself. He applauds himself greatly, and thinking with how clear a conscience he should meet his minister…And what calm sleep would be his…in the arms of Faith!” (Passage 40). This is ironic because at the end of the story, he can not even look Faith in the eye, let alone sleep next to her. 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 about a goodly young woman to be taken in to communion (passage 40). He fears that it may be his Faith.
When Goodman Brown hears this, he becomes weak and blacks out. He begins to doubt whether there really was a Heaven above him (passage 45). This is a key point when Goodman Brown’s faith begins to diminish. Goodman Brown in panic declares With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil! (Passage 45). Again, Brown makes a promise to keep his faith in God. Then a black mass of cloud (passage 45) goes between Brown and the sky as if to barricade his prayer from the heavens. Brown then hears voices of his community. Once Goodman Brown begins to doubt whether he actually heard these voices, the sound comes to him again and this time it is followed by one voice, of a young woman (passage 45). Goodman believes this is his Faith, and yells out her name only to be mimicked by the echoes of the forest. A pink ribbon flies through the air and Goodman grabs it. Now, Goodman Brown has lost all faith in the world and declares that there is no good on earth (passage 50).
Goodman Brown had at this point lost his faith in God, therefore there was nothing -restraining his instincts from moving towards evil because he had been lead out from his utopian image of society.
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. This is another demonstration of Brown’s excessive pride.
Brown then comes upon the ceremony, which is setup like a distorted Puritan temple. A red light surrounded the worshippers like a mask of evil over the devil worshippers.
Brown starts to take notice of 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 (passage 50). This is the first time that the word hope ever comes into the story and it is because this is the true turning point for Goodman Brown. If Faith was not there, as he had hoped, he would not have to live alone in his community of heathens, which he does not realize that he is already apart of.
The ceremony then begins with a cry to Bring forth the converts! (Passage 60). Surprisingly Goodman Brown steps forward. He had no power to retreat one step, nor to resist, even in thought… (Passage 60). Goodman Brown at this point seems to be in a trance and loses control of his body as he unconsciously enters the service. The leader of the service than addresses the crowd of converts, and informs them that all the members of the congregation are the righteous, and honest. Then the leader informs them to look at each other and Goodman Brown finds himself face to face with Faith. The leader declaring that Evil is the nature of mankind (passage 65) welcomes the converts to communion of your race (passage 65). 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. Brown than snaps out from his trance and yells Faith! Faith! Look up to Heaven and resist the wicked one! (Passage 65). At this, the ceremony ends and Brown finds himself alone. He does not know whether his wife had kept her faith, but he finds himself, alone which leads him to believe that he is also alone in his faith.
Young Goodman Brown ends with Brown returning to Salem at early dawn. He cannot believe that he is in the same place that he just the night before; because to him, Salem was no longer home. He felt like an outsider in a world of Devil worshippers. Brown expresses his discomfort with his new surroundings and his excessive pride when he takes a child away from a blessing given by Goody Cloyse, his former Catechism teacher, as if he were taking the child from the grasp of the fiend himself (passage 70). His anger towards the community is exemplified when he sees Faith who is overwhelmed with excitement to see him and he looks sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a greeting (passage 70). Brown cannot even stand to look at his wife with whom he was at the convert service with. Because of his excessive pride, he feels that even though he was at the Devil’s service, he is still better than everyone else is. Brown feels he can push his own faults on to others and look down at them rather than look at himself and resolve his own faults with himself.
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. The story, which may have been a dream, and not a real life event, planted the seed of doubt in Brown’s mind, which consequently cut him off from his fellow man and leaves him alone and depressed. His life ends alone and miserable because he was never able to look at himself and realize that everyone else’s faults were his as well. His excessive pride in himself led to his isolation from the community. Brown was buried with no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom (passage 70).