Young Goodman Brown: The Downfall Of Young Goodman Brown

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Young Goodman Brown: The Downfall of Young Goodman Brown'Young Goodman Brown', by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a story that is thickwith allegory. 'Young Goodman Brown' is a moral story which is told through theperversion of a religious leader. In 'Young Goodman Brown', Goodman Brown is aPuritan minister who lets his excessive pride in himself interfere with hisrelations with the community after he meets with the devil, and causes him tolive the life of an exile in his own community.'Young Goodman Brown' begins when Faith, Brown's wife, asks him not to goon an 'errand'. Goodman Brown says to his 'love and (my) Faith' that 'this onenight I must tarry away from thee.' When he says his 'love' and his 'Faith', heis talking to his wife, but he is also talking to his 'faith' to God. He isventuring into the woods to meet with the Devil, and by doing so, he leaves hisunquestionable faith in God with his wife. He resolves that he will 'cling toher skirts and follow her to Heaven.' This is an example of the excessive pridebecause he feels that he can sin and meet with the Devil because of this promisethat he made to himself. There is a tremendous irony to this promise becausewhen Goodman Brown comes back at dawn; he can no longer look at his wife withthe same faith he had before. When Goodman Brown finally meets with the Devil, he declares that thereason he was late was because 'Faith kept me back awhile.' This statement hasa double meaning because his wife physically prevented him from being on timefor his meeting with the devil, but his faith to God i psychologically delayedhis meeting with the devil. The Devil had with him a staff that 'bore the likeness of a great blacksnake'. The staff which looked like a snake is a reference to the snake in thestory of Adam and Eve.

The snake led Adam and Eve to their destruction byleading them to the Tree of Knowledge. The Adam and Eve story is similar toGoodman 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 theirparadise. The Devil's staff eventually leads Goodman Brown to the Devil'sceremony which destroys Goodman Brown's faith in his fellow man, thereforeexpelling him from his utopia. Goodman Brown almost immediately declares that he kept his meeting with theDevil and no longer wishes to continue on his errand with the Devil. He saysthat he comes from a 'race of honest men and good Christians' and that hisfather had never gone on this errand and nor will he. The Devil is quick topoint out however that he was with his father and grandfather when they wereflogging a woman or burning an Indian village, respectively

These acts areironic in that they were bad deeds done in the name of good, and it shows thathe does not come from 'good Christians.'When Goodman Brown's first excuse not to carry on with the errand proves tobe unconvincing, he says he can't go because of his wife, 'Faith'. And becauseof her, he can not carry out the errand any further. At this point the Devilagrees with him and tells him to turn back to prevent that 'Faith should come toany harm' like the old woman in front of them on the path. Ironically, GoodmanBrown's faith is harmed because the woman on the path is the woman who 'taughthim his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser.' TheDevil and the woman talk and afterward, Brown continues to walk on with theDevil in the disbelief of what he had just witnessed. Ironically, he blames thewoman for consorting with the Devil but his own pride stops him from realizingthat his faults are the same as the woman's. Brown again decides that he will no longer to continue on his errand andrationalizes that just because his teacher was not going to heaven, why shouldhe 'quit my dear Faith, and go after her'. At this, the Devil tosses GoodmanBrown 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 pridein himself begins to build.

He 'applauds himself greatly, and thinking with howclear a conscience he should meet his minister..And what calm sleep would behis..in the arms of Faith!' This is ironic because at the end of the story, hecan not even look Faith in the eye, let alone sleep in her arms. As GoodmanBrown is feeling good about his strength in resisting the Devil, he hears thevoices of the minister and Deacon Gookin. He overhears their conversation andhears them discuss a 'goodly young woman to be taken in to communion' thatevening 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 keypoint when Goodman Brown's faith begins to wain. Goodman Brown in panicdeclares that 'With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm againstthe devil!' Again, Brown makes a promise to keep his faith unto God.

Then 'ablack mass of cloud' goes in between Brown and the sky as if to block his prayerfrom heaven. Brown then hears what he believed to be voices that he has beforein the community. Once Goodman Brown begins to doubt whether this is reallywhat he had heard or not, the sound comes to him again and this time it isfollowed by 'one voice, of a young woman'. Goodman believes this is Faith andhe yells out her name only to be mimicked by the echoes of the forest, as if hiscalls to Faith were falling on deaf ears. A pink ribbon flies through the airand Goodman grabs it. At this moment, he has lost all faith in the world anddeclares that there is 'no good on earth.' Young Goodman Brown in this scene iseasily manipulated simply by the power of suggestion.

The suggestion that thewoman 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 laughinsanely. He takes hold of the staff which causes him to seem to 'fly along theforest-path'. This image alludes to that of Adam and Eve being led out of theGarden of Eden as is Goodman Brown being led out of his utopia by the Devil'ssnakelike staff. Hawthorne at this point remarks about 'the instinct thatguides mortal man to evil'. This is a direct statement from the author that hebelieves that man's natural inclination is to lean to evil than good. GoodmanBrown had at this point lost his faith in God, therefore there was nothingrestraining his instincts from moving towards evil because he had been lead outfrom his utopian image of society. At this point, Goodman Brown goes mad and challenges evil. He feels thathe will be th...

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