Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne lived in the 1800’s and wrote this. He lived in Salem, Massachusetts. That’s where they had the famous witch trials. Hawthorne was descended from one of the judges from that trial. He wrote a lot about the puritans (The Scarlet Letter). In Puritan times, men were called Goodman, and married women were called Goody.
Young Goodman Brown: The main character of this story. He is having a crisis with Faith and is being tempted by the devil.
Faith: Goodman Brown’s wife. She also can be seen as his Faith.
The man (Devil): He is the person who Brown goes to meet in the forest and does the tempting on young Goodman Brown. He can appear as different people and represents the evil inside a person.
Goody Cloyse: An old lady who taught Goodman Brown when he was a boy and is someone he turns to for spiritual guidance.
Deacon Gookin: Another person Goodman Brown considers a spiritual guide.
The minister: The town minister of Salem.
The story starts out at sunset it Salem with Young Goodman Brown saying goodbye to his wife Faith. His wife is wearing a pink ribbon (important detail) and she doesn’t want him to go. He tells her he has to go and will be back tomorrow. He feels bad because he thinks she is so innocent and he is off to do bad things.
He goes into the forest and meets this guy. In olden times, the forest was considered a place of evil so right off the bat you know he is up to no good. The guy has been waiting for Brown and tells him he is late. Goodman Brown says, "Faith kept me back a while". The guy kind of looks like Goodman Brown just older and he has a staff. He tells him they have to start a journey. Brown says he has come too far the forest and he is going home. He says his father and grandfather never came into the woods like he has to meet this guy. The man says he knew Goodman Brown’s father and grandfather and they have walked this path many times. Brown says he finds that hard to believe because the members of his family are good Christians. The man says he is on friendly terms with all kinds of good Christians all over New England, even the governor. Then Goodman Brown says he doesn’t know the governor but he would never be able to look the minister in his eyes if kept going on this path. The man laughs at him. Goodman Brown is running out of excuses so he says he can’t go on because of his wife…his Faith.
The devil then points down the path to an old lady who is hobbling along. The old lady is Goody Cloyse. Goodman Brown doesn’t want her to see him so he hides in the trees. The man walks up to Goody Cloyse and she greets him as "The Devil!" Goody Cloyse recognizes the devil in the form of Goodman Brown’s grandfather who was a friend of hers. They talk and it’s obvious she is in with the devil. She is going to a communion in the forest where they are initiating a young man…could this be Goodman Brown…I think so. The devil offers her his staff and throws it down on the ground and it turns into snake. (In ancient Egypt, the sorcerers had staffs that turned into snakes. Hawthorne makes note of this here. Moses had a staff too it turned into a snake and ate all the other snakes. Say this to look smart) Then the snake and Goody Cloyse disappear.
Goodman Brown doesn’t want to go any further so the man leaves him. Brown is sitting there when two men came riding through the forest on horses. Brown hides in the trees again. The minister and Deacon Gookin are the two men riding up. They are talking about the evil communion and how everyone from all over is going to be there because a young woman will be taking the communion….hmmm, who could that be? Well, Goodman Brown is pretty upset by all this. All the spiritual leaders in his town are in with the devil. Then he calls out that with his Faith, he will stand firm against the devil. Then he hears all these voices that sound like the people in his town and the voice of a young woman and then a scream. Then a pink ribbon (remember the pink ribbon?) comes fluttering down in front of Goodman Brown. He is then really upset and cries out, "My Faith is gone!". So, he gets all crazy and starts running down the path.
He comes into this clearing where there is a big fire and a bunch of people singing and such. All the people were the people from his town and Indians. Then, this guy at an altar (the devil) says "Bring Forth the converts!". So Goodman Brown goes forward. The head guy looks like his dead father and in front of the altar is a woman. So, Goodman Brown is led to the altar and is standing there with this woman. The devil gives a speech about how everyone they know is here and that basically everyone is evil no matter who they are. Evil is the nature of mankind. He tells Goodman Brown to look at the woman and they look at each other. The woman is Faith. Well, they are about to both be baptized by blood or fire when Goodman Brown yells to his wife to resist the devil. Right when he yells this, everything disappears and he is all alone.
The next day, Goodman Brown returns home to Salem from the forest. He sees the minister, Goody Cloyse, and the Deacon and he can’t look at them. They look normal but he sees them as evil now. Then he sees his wife who is excited to see him but he walks away from her. Then basically Goodman Brown lives a miserable life because he doesn’t trust anyone and thinks they are all evil.
THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART
- The main point about this story is was it real or a dream? Hawthorne asks that question himself at the end. Did Goodman Brown fall asleep in the forest and dream the whole thing or did he really meet the devil? There is no right answer and it can be argued both ways.
- Faith represents more than just his wife. It can be religious faith or faith in mankind.
- Remember, Hawthorne lived in Salem where they had the witch trials. The Puritans put a lot of innocent people to death in the name or religion. This story says a lot about how people may appear to be very religious but still are evil.
- Why did the devil appear to Goodman Brown to resemble his father? Maybe to convince him?