Nathaniel Salem witch trials (Maus 79). Hawthorne’s
Nathaniel Hawthorne is known as an American author who incorporates historical information about the Puritans into his writings. Hawthorne had high regard for the achievements and prominence of his Puritan ancestors; however, he felt guilty about their devilish works that have made for Salem witch trials and the persecution of Quakers. His ancestors, William, Hathorne and John Hathorne, were a severe persecutor of Quakers and the chief interrogator of the accused in the Salem witch trials (Maus 79). Hawthorne’s short story “Young Goodman Brown” is one of his writings that influenced by the hypocritical Puritanism of his ancestors. This story is based on seventeenth-century background and the author indicates the human nature and the fight between good and evil.
The story begins as the main character Young Goodman Brown sets out on a journey into the dark forest, which naturally enables the readers to follow the character and see what happens to him in the forest from the third person’s point of view. Young Goodman Brown changes throughout the story due to his mysterious nightmare, which makes him suffer from seeing his trusted wife and townspeople participate in evil wrongdoings led by the devil. Goodman Brown appears as a religious person, who have a faith in God but seems skeptical about his beliefs. He gradually loses his faith as the story goes by, but a part of him tries to keep up with some hope.In the story “Young Goodman Brown”, Hawthorne sets up Goodman Brown’s wife, Faith as the most meaningful symbolic character. Faith is a pure woman who is untouched by evil, and Goodman Brown even calls her a “blessed angel on earth” (Hawthorne 1). Her name symbolizes hope that Goodman Brown has had at the beginning of the story but has been slowly losing.
Therefore, leaving his wife and walking into the dark forest represents that he is starting to betray the religious faith in him and decide to enter the dark path with the devil. Although Brown is losing some of his faith, he still holds some parts of it through his wife. When he arrives at the forest and his companion tells him he is late, Brown says that “Faith kept me back a while” (Hawthorne 2). In this context, Faith represents not only his wife but also his faith in God kept him from the evil. In addition, the pink ribbons of her cap also straightly connect to Goodman Brown’s inner faith. The pink ribbons symbolize Faith’s innocence and purity. This pink ribbon plays a crucial role in making Goodman Brown give up his last hope later in the story.
The pink ribbons are seen floating in the trees which means that Faith has lost her innocence. “My Faith is gone!” cried he, after one stupefied moment. “There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil! for to thee is this world given.” (Hawthorne 8). When Goodman Brown found that his wife decided to join the devil’s society with other townspeople, he was desperate and lost all faith in man.
Young Goodman Brown’s companion, an ordinary old man in the woods, reveals to be the devil. When Goodman Brown met the man, he wore a decent suit, and his appearance looked like a normal man in Salem Village, but Goodman Brown realized that the devil could appear in any situation and place. Hawthorne created a connection between Goodman Brown and the old man by saying that the devil seems to be his father: “Still they might have been taken for father and son” (Hawthorne 2). However, this gives readers a confusion whether the devil and Goodman Brown are directly related to each other or not (Boonyaprasop 47). It could be argued that … The forest, he has entered, describes as a dark and ominous path.
The forest represents a meeting place of the “witches” and a home for evil. This is the last place where the story ends after Goodman Brown meets his wife and townspeople at the satanic conversion ceremony (Moores #). Hawthorne draws Goodman Brown’s attention to the staff which his companion carries with. He describes this staff as a great black snake by stating that “But the only thing about him that could be fixed upon as remarkable was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent” (Hawthorne #). The author connects the staff to a serpent that appears in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve.
The staff shaped like a black snake which synonymous with the devil representing in the Adam and Eve’s story and making them tempted to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. In this story, the temptation is an important subject of evil. Goodman Brown’s wife Faith, other townspeople, and even Goodman Brown himself are tempted by the devil to give up their faith in God and follow him. To sum up, Goodman Brown is strongly believed that his beloved wife and trusted townspeople had changed, and they no longer have religious faith. Even though it was only a nightmare and he was able to overcome it, he accepted the devil’s temptation and walk into the path of darkness with the devil. This shows the evil part of him that cannot be completely resisted.
In reality, his wife and the townspeople were still the same faithful people who believed in God. However, it was Goodman Brown’s own subconscious thinking that made him lose the faith in Puritan community and led an unhappy life. Goodman Brown lives the rest of his life unhappy and dies since he turns his back on Faith, townspeople, and the God. In this short story, Hawthorne reveals that all humans are born with evil nature, and the temptation that brings evil minds to them continues to occur throughout their lives, and even now they are being tested their faith by the devil.