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Young Goodman Brown

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Jesse Wick

English 260

The Downfall of 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 i

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

...

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