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Young Goodman Brown

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"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


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 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



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