The story Young Goodman Brown is about a man and his faith in himself, his wife, and the community they reside in. Goodman Brown must venture on a journey into the local forest refuse the temptations of the devil and return to the village before sunrise. The time era is approximately a generation after the time of the witch trials.
Goodman Brown’s struggle between the evil temptations, the devil, and the proper church abiding life, is a struggle he does not think he can face. He reiterates his false confidence to himself repeatedly. This characteristic of Goodman Brown is similar to the life lead by the author Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of self-doubt. Nathaniel Hawthorne was an unhappy person his entire life, never satisfied with his accomplishments.
Goodman knowns what he must do but dreads the deed. Apon entering the forest he is suspicious of every rock and tree, thinking something evil will jump out at him. When he finally does meet someone on the trail, who appears to be of evil origin, he feels confident that he can refuse any temptations. This evil person makes several advances and Goodman refuses. This makes Goodman feel strong until they meet his childhood catechism teacher and see her turned. This act deters his confidence to a great degree. He continues down the trail looking for hope in the heavens but hears only howling voices. Goodman eventually reaches his destination and sees the rest of the community there participating in satanic acts. When he sees this it destroys any faith he might of had in the community or himself and he appears to give-up. The following morning he finds himself in the forest and wonders what happened the previous night. Whether the scenes he witnessed were real or his imagination, he believes what he remembers and trusts no-one in the village, not even his wife. Goodman lives the rest of his years a miserable and distrusting man.
The lead character is happy with the locals and his faith until his trip, when he is convinced they are all evil. Apon this discovery he, in a sense, becomes evil. Whether he actually meets satin, and the community is evil or he fell asleep and tricked himself, he turns out suspecting everyone.
The author tells in the end that Goodman is distrustiing after his journey, so he either did met the devil or fell asleep. The story seems to lean toward him meeting the devil in person. If Goodman had dreamt the entire trip the author would have probably described his anxiety with more detail in the beginning. This would have allowed the reader to believe that events were not real.
When Goodman comes back he thinks he is better than the rest and judges everyone instantly. He then comes to the conclusion that he is the only person that is not a devil worshiper. Just as before with the witch trials, he is judging them as the so-called witches were judged by his ancestors. A reference to Martha Carrier is made is the story, Goodman’s predicament is similar to hers. She was isolated from the community because of her beliefs just like Goodman. The difference is that Martha’s community isolated her, and Goodman felt isolated or isolated himself.
The views and beliefs of the people of that era were if anything to an extreme. Whatever they believed they worshipped with a vengeance. This extreme faith can be compared to the current time “Career Goal.” If the people of today can not pursue a career and succeed, they feel as if their life has no meaning. This most likely has its roots from the protestant work ethic. The ethic, in general, says that you must work hard to please God and compete for a place in heaven. This story is about such people. The modern day person has taken this work ethic and given it a greedy twist. People of today fight for position, status or power just as much as the pioneer puritans worshiped and studied the bible. The puritans would take the word of bible as the word, without interpretation, only translation by the minister of the community. Although these career driven people do not have a book to guide their path, they pursue it none the less. Some of these people have lost, or never had the belief, of reaching heaven, or even its existance. These people are the peers of the believers and set the rules or guidelines for career goals. So in effect the status in the community is a way of saying they are better. The people who do not believe in any god-like being fight in an effort to make their mark on the world, for this is the only they can be recognized or remembered.
Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a story about revealing true evil and the loss of one man’s faith. Nathaniel Hawthorne left “Young Goodman Brown” up for many interpretations. After reading the story a couple of times, one thing became clear to me. What I absorbed from this story was that evil exists in everyone, does not matter how good we may think we are. Things aren’t always what they seem. I say this because the people who attended the devil’s meetings, were the ones who attended church with him. The people whom he though were holy and Christian. These people were not holy at all. They were worshipping, praying, and obeying the devil. As Goodman Brown started his journey into the forest, he met an older man. The old man, “was about fifty years old, apparently in the same rank of life as Goodman Brown, and bearing a considerable resemblance to him, though perhaps more in expression than features” (DiYanni, 273). In Brown’s ignorance, he does not realize that the one he is with is in fact the devil. This is shown when Brown asks a question in fear before meeting the old man, “There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree,” said Goodman Brown to himself; and he glanced fearfully behind him, as he added, “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!” (DiYanni, 273). This to me is ironic because then, “His head being turned back, he passed a crook of the road, and looking forward again, beheld the figure of a man, in grave and decent attire, seated at the foot of an old tree. He arose at Goodman Brown’s approach, and walked onward, side by side with him”(DiYassi, 273). Here Goodman Brown does not realize that the devil is, in fact, walking “side by side with him”(DiYassi,273). “Goodman Brown recognized a very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual advisor” (DiYassi, 275). This dames name was Goody Cloyse. When Brown sees that Goody Cloyse recognizes the old man and cries out, “the devil” (DiYassi, 275), he can’t believe it. He now sees her as a “wretched old woman” (DiYassi, 276). Brown is feeling his loss of faith and tries to overcome this by saying, “What if a wretched old woman does choose to go to the devil, when I though she was going to heaven! Is that any reason to leave my dear Faith behind, and go after her?” (DiYassi, 276). Though Brown is disappointed, he has not yet lost his faith. Goodman Brown finds his faith disrupted, once again, when he observes the minister and deacon secretly from behind a tree. These two “holy men” (DiYanni, 276) are the two people that Brown admires; they are the spiritual leaders of the community. As Goodman Brown listens to their discussing the unholy meeting Brown becomes “faint and over-burthened with the heavy sickness of his heart” (DiYanni, 276). At this point he was in doubt of his faith, but in a struggle to keep his faith he says, “With heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” (DiYanni, 277). “Faith”, Goodman Brown’s wife, is his faith in God. Brown loses all faith in God, but he believes that he is better than everyone else. Showing his pride and ignorance. This was Goodman Brown’s downfall. Critics tend to focus on different scenes from stories. This critic, Bert A.Mikosh, focuses on his view of “Young Goodman Brown”. “The story “Young Goodman Brown” is about a man and his faith in himself, his wife, and the community they reside in. Goodman Brown must venture on a journey into the local forest refuse the temptation of the devil and return to the village before sunrise. The time era is approximately a generation after the time of the witch trials” (Mikosh). He leads on by saying, “The lead character is happy with the locals and his faith until this trip, when he is convinced they are all evil. Upon this discovery he, in a sense, becomes evil” (Mikosh). Bert continues in writing, “When Goodman comes back he thinks he is better than the rest and judges everyone instantly. He then comes to the conclusion that he is the only person that is not a devil worshiper. Just as before with the witch trials, he is judging then as the so-called witches were judged by his ancestors. A reference to Martha Carrier is made in the story, Goodman’s predicament is similar to his. She was isolated from the community because of her beliefs just like Goodman. The difference is that Martha’s community isolated her, and Goodman felt isolated or isolated himself” (Mikosh). This was a very interesting point. Bert ends by stating this, “The views and beliefs of people of that era were if anything to an extreme. Whatever they believed they worshipped with a vengeance. This extreme faith can be compared to the current time “Career Goal.” If the people today can not pursue a career and succeed, the feel as if their life has no meaning” (Mikosh). I don’t agree 100% but I understand what he is trying to say. “This most likely has its roots from the Protestant work ethic. The ethic, in general, says that you must work hard to please God and complete for a place in heaven. This story is about such people. The modern day person has taken this work ethic and given it a greedy twist. People of today fight for position, status or power just as much as the pioneer puritans worshiped and studied the bible. The puritans would take the word of the bible as the word, without interpretation, only translation by the minister of the ommunity. Although these career driven people do not have a book to guide their path, they pursue it none the less. Some of these people have lost, or never had the belief, of reaching heaven, or even its existence. These people are the peers of the believers and set the rules or guidelines for career goals. So in effect the status in the community is a way of saying they are better. The people who do not believe in any god-like being fight in an effort to make their mark on the world, for this is the only was they can be recognized or remembered” (Mikosh). This is his view of “Young Goodman Brown”. Another critic is Joan Elizabeth Easterley who focuses on the lachrymalimagery in Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”. “Literary critics have interpreted the significance of Goodman Brown’s experience in many fashions–allegorical, moral, philosophical, and psychological. However there is an intriguing absence of any reference to the last line of the Sabbath scene to explain Hawthorne’s characterization of the young Puritan, despite the fact that Hawthorne signals the importance of the cold drops of dew in a periodic sentence. In essence, Hawthorne here carefully delineates the image of a young man who has faced and failed a critical test of moral and spiritual maturity” (Easterley). “Young Goodman Brown is reproached by his creator because he shows no compassion for the weaknesses he sees in others, no remorse for his own sin, and no sorrow for his loss of faith. The one action that would demonstrate such deep and redemptive human feelings does not take place. Goodman Brown does not weep. Therefore, Hawthorne quietly and gently sprinkles “the coldest dew” on his cheek to represent the absence of tears” (Easterley). “The lack of tears, the outward sign of an inward reality, posits the absence of the innate love and humility that would have made possible Brown’s moral and spiritual progression. A meticulous artist and a master of symbolism, Hawthorne uses the twig and the dewdrops deliberately. Drops of water on a man’s cheek suggest tears” (Easterley). “On a moral level, Brown’s acceptance of others as they are–imperfect and subject to temptation–would have made a mature adulthood and productive and healthy relationships with others possible. But his lack of remorse and compassion, as symbolized by the absence of tears, condemns him to an anguished life that is spiritually and emotionally desiccated. The drops that Hawthorne places on Brown’s cheek are of “the coldest dew,” devastating in their connotation, for they represent the coldness of a soul that is dying, in contrast to the regenerative warmth of true tears and love” (Easterley). “Human tears are an emotional response, and Hawthorne’s allusion to the lack of tears underscores Brown’s emotional barrenness. Critical analyses have hitherto focused primarily on Brown’s faulty or immature moral reasoning, arguing that the puritan fails the test of the Sabbath because he fails to reason on a mature moral level, either because of the legalism of Puritan doctrine or because of his refusal to admit his own sinfulness (Frank 209, Folsom 32, Fogle23, Stubbs 73) (Easterley). Joan Elizabeth Easterley has opened my eyes. It is interesting to see different views on one story. To wrap up her essay, she ends it by saying, “Nathaniel Hawthorne, the master of symbolism and suggestion, softly sprinkles cold tears on the cheek of young Goodman Brown. This lachrymal image, so delicately wrought, is the key to interpreting the young Puritan’s failure to achieve moral and spiritual maturity. Brown cannot reconcile the conflict caused by his legalistic evaluation of others, nor can he transcend this moral dilemma by showing compassion and remorse. In final irony, Hawthorne tells us that the man who sheds no tears lives the rest of his life a “sad” man, whose “dying hour was gloom” (Hawthorne, 90)(Easterley). “Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts, the descendent of a long line of Puritan ancestors. After his father was lost at sea when he was only four, his mother became overly protected and pushed him toward more isolated pursuits. Hawthorne’s childhood left him overly shy and bookish, and molded his life as a writer. Hawthorne turned to writing after his graduation from Bowdoin College” (Classic Notes by Gradesaver). “In June, 1849, Hawthorne was discharged from his three year long job with Salem Custom House. He was forty five years old, and although starting to gain a reputation as a writer, remained unable to support himself from writing alone. To make the tragedy even worse, only a few weeks later his mother passed away. Hawthorne fell ill as a result of the difficulties he was facing” (Classic Notes by Gradesaver). “Upon his recovery late in the summer, Hawthorne sat down to write The Scarlet Letter. He zealously worked on the novel with determination he had not known before. His intense suffering infused the novel with imaginative energy, leading him to describe it as the “hell-fired story.” On February 3. 1850, Hawthorne read the final pages to his wife. He wrote, “It broke her heart and sent her to bed with a grievous headache, which i took upon as a triumphant success” (Classic Notes by Gradesaver). “Hawthorne was deeply devoted to his wife, Sophia Peabody, and his two children. Hawthorne, though, had little engagement with any sort of social life. Hawthorne passed away on May 19, 1864 in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Emerson described his life with the words “painful solitude.” Hawthorne’s classic remains one of the most cleanly composed works of American fiction” (Classic Notes by Gradesaver).
In the very confusing story Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne, he explains how a man whose life seemed so easy and untouched by chaos loses faith in everything.
Young Goodman Brown, the character, is a very religious man. Which is typical because his is a Puritan. His life is perfect, he has a beautiful young wife, named Faith, a home, and is content with the people that live in his community. He loves his wife and trusts her very much, until one night when he experiences something weird.
Late one evening Young Goodman Brown walked through the streets of the town with a very strange man who tells him things about the town and his wife, then suddenly disappears. Brown was left alone and began to hear familiar voices, so he hid behind the bushes at the foot of the forest, and witnessed the towns people going into the dark forest. He saw Faith, so he trustingly walked in. No one was found until suddenly he heard the voices of the villagers.
They were taking part in a ritual that was unlike anything that Puritans joined in. The minister on the altar notices Young Goodman Brown. He has him and Faith brought to the altar. Suddenly Brown wakes up and everything is the same except he has this feeling of loss. The loss of faith, the faith in his wife and the trust of the “good” people who he lives with. Upon having this dream, and no possible explaination for it, he feels that either it was truly a dream, or the whole town really took part in the fiasco, but no one is telling him. Because of this confusion, he cannot trust any one or anything, and until his dying day he is bewildered by the night that the feeling of faith and trust walked into the dark forest, but never came out.
In our lives we should never lose faith in things. The simple act of faith enables us to reach our goals and to achieve our dreams. In other words, if you lose faith in some one or something, you have lost faith in yourself. If you don’t believe in any thing, what is the use of living? In my life a lot of things have happened, some terrible enough to desroy my trust in any thing, but I have refused to let them. I feel that no matter how many bad things occur in my life, if I have faith in the good things, they will eventually come.
Young Goodman Brown
“Young Goodman Brown”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a story that is thick with allegory. “Young Goodman Brown” is a moral story which is told through the perversion of a religious leader. In “Young Goodman Brown”, Goodman Brown is a Puritan minister who lets his excessive pride in himself interfere with his relations with the community after he meets with the devil, and causes him to live the life of an exile in his own community.
“Young Goodman Brown” begins when Faith, Brown’s wife, asks him not to go on an “errand”. Goodman Brown says to his “love and (my) Faith” that “this one night I must tarry away from thee.” When he says his “love” and his “Faith”, he is talking to his wife, but he is also talking to his “faith” to 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.” This is an example of the excessive pride because he feels that he can sin and meet with the Devil because of this promise that he made to himself. There is a 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 before.
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 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”. 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 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 unfathomable amounts of knowledge. Once Adam and 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, 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. 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. These acts are ironic in that they were bad deeds done in the name of good, and it shows that he does not come from “good Christians.”
When Goodman Brown’s first excuse not to carry on with the errand proves to be unconvincing, he says he can’t go because of his wife, “Faith”. And because of her, he can not carry out the errand any further. At this point the Devil agrees with him and tells him to turn back to prevent that “Faith should come to any harm” like the old woman in front of them on the path. Ironically, 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.” The Devil and the woman talk and afterward, Brown continues to walk on with the Devil in the disbelief of what he had just witnessed. Ironically, 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 and rationalizes that just because his teacher was not going to heaven, why should he “quit my dear Faith, and go after her”. At this, the Devil tosses Goodman Brown his staff (which will lead him out of his Eden) and leaves him.
Goodman Brown begins to think to himself about his situation and his pride in himself begins to build. 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!” This is ironic because at the end of the story, he can not even look Faith in the eye, let alone sleep in her arms. 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 and hears them discuss a “goodly young woman to be taken in to communion” that evening at that night’s meeting and fears 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” and this is a key point when Goodman Brown’s faith begins to wain. Goodman Brown in panic 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” goes in between Brown and the sky as if to block his prayer from heaven. Brown then hears what he believed to be voices that he has before in the community. Once Goodman Brown begins to doubt whether this is really what he had heard or not, the sound comes to him again and this time it is followed by “one voice, of a young woman”. Goodman believes this is Faith and he yells out her name only to be mimicked by the echoes of the forest, as if his calls to Faith were falling on deaf ears. 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 simply 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 seem to “fly along the forest-path”. This image alludes to that of Adam and Eve being led out of the Garden of Eden as is Goodman Brown being led out of his utopia by the Devil’s snakelike staff. 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 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 and arrogance. He believes that he is better than everyone else in that he alone can destroy evil.
Brown then 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 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”. 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. Another way that the hope could be looked at is that it is all one of “the Christian triptych”. (Capps 25) The third part of the triptych which is never mentioned throughout the story is charity. If Brown had had “charity” it would have been the “antidote that would have allowed him to survive without despair the informed state in which he returned to Salem.” (Camps 25)
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 he loses control of his body as he is unconsciously entering this service of converts to the devil. The leader of the service than 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. The sermon leader then informs the crowd of their leader’s evil deeds such as attempted murder of the spouse and wife, adultery, and obvious blasphemy. 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 up 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 than dips his hand in the rock to draw a liquid from it and “to lay the mark of baptism upon their foreheads”. Brown than snaps out from his trance and yells “Faith! Faith! Look up to Heaven and resist the wicked one!” At this, the ceremony ends and Brown finds himself alone. He does not know whether Faith, his wife, had kept her faith, but he finds himself alone which leads him to believe that he is also alone in his faith.
Throughout the story, Brown lacks emotion as a normal person would have had. The closest Brown comes to showing an emotion is when “a hanging twig, that had been all on fire, besprinkled his cheek with the coldest dew.” The dew on his cheek represents a tear that Brown is unable to produce because of his lack of emotion. Hawthorne shows that Brown has “no compassion for the weaknesses he sees in others, no remorse for his own sin, and no sorrow for his loss of faith.” (Easterly 339) His lack of remorse and compassion “condemns him to an anguished life that is spiritually and emotionally dissociated.” (Easterly 341) This scene is an example of how Goodman Brown chose to follow his head rather than his heart. Had Brown followed his heart, he may have still lived a good life. If he followed with his heart, he would have been able to sympathize with the community’s weaknesses, but instead, he listened to his head and excommunicated himself from the community because he only thought of them as heathens.
“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 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 and because his “basic means of order, his religious system, is absent, the society he was familiar with becomes nightmarish.” (Shear 545) He comes back to the town “projecting his guilt onto those around him.” (Tritt 114) 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.” 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.” 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. 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 what he believed were 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.”