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Young Goodman Brown and His Multiple Characters

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Essay title: Young Goodman Brown and His Multiple Characters

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Young Goodman Brown” is an intriguing story of mystery that mingles with faith and sin. Taking place in Salem, Massachusetts circa the witch trials readers begin the story with Young Goodman Brown reluctantly leaving his wife Faith for a mysterious overnight errand. Not only leaving his wife, Brown leaves the town and the people he thought he knew behind. Hawthorne’s reoccurring theme of man being attracted to evil is apparent in this story as readers follow the main character on a dark revealing journey through the woods. Hawthorne’s character Young Goodman Brown is, in actuality, three characters in one, and the change is apparent as the story progresses.

An innocent and naпve man in the opening of the story, Goodman Brown trusts all the people he knows without reason or suspicion. The townspeople of Salem are highly respectable in Brown’s eyes. As far as Goodman Brown is concerned, his wife Faith is the most virtuous of them all. Innocent Faith tries to persuade her husband to not go on this errand, although it is unclear to readers as to what type of errand Brown in going on. Calling her “my love and my Faith” (Hawthorne 26) Brown assures her, “Say thy prayers, dear Faith, and go to bed at dusk, and no harm will come to thee” (Hawthorne 27). Feeling slightly guilty for leaving his young bride, Goodman Brown embarks on his journey claiming, “…and after this one night, I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven” (Hawthorne 27). Young Goodman Brown considers himself alone in sin, especially compared to his “holy and good” elders. As he walks through the woods thinking, “it was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity to this solitude” (Hawthorne 27). “The Problem of Faith in ‘Young Goodman Brown,’” written by Leo B. Levy, notes that in the beginning Brown is a “naпve and immature young man who fails to understand the gravity of the step he has taken.” (Levy 117) This is the first character within Goodman Brown. Innocent and young, the first aspect of the main character is anxious to get on with his journey and get back to what is good.

As Goodman Brown moves into the woods, he also moves into his second personality. It is in this personality readers also see three turning points leading to the development of the character. In the woods, Brown meets up with a mysterious traveler, later revealed as the devil. While walking with the devil, Goodman Brown states that he wants to return to Faith. As the devil coaxes the young man to keep walking a little further Brown claims that if his ancestors never participated in committing sins then neither should he. The devil responds, “I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that’s no trifle to say…..They were my good friends, both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily after midnight. I would fain be friends with you for their sake.” (Hawthorne 28) Newly awakened to the sins of his forefathers Young Goodman Brown sees his childhood catechism teacher, Goody Cloyse, ahead. In disbelief that such a kind elderly woman might be walking in the dark wood, he refuses to go another step with the “elderly traveler.” However, after listening to the conversation between the devil and Goody Cloyse, Brown realizes that she too is working with the devil. It is after this second meeting that Goodman Brown makes another startling revelation. Both the town minister and Deacon Gookin are familiar with the devil and are traveling through the woods to the meeting. Brown notices a cloud dark in the sky that produces “a confused and doubtful sound of voices.” (Hawthorne 32) When the cloud of doubtful voices becomes clearer, Goodman Brown hears the voice of his young wife Faith uttering lamentations. Grief stricken, Brown claims, “My Faith is gone! There is no good on earth and sin is just a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given.” (Hawthorne 33) And as quickly as he was overcome with grief, Goodman Brown is immediately enraged and states his revenge and strength to the busy forest. “Let us hear which will laugh the loudest! Think not to frighten me with your deviltry! Come witch, come wizard, come Indian powwow, come devil himself, and here comes Goodman Brown. You may as well fear him as he fear you!” (Hawthorne 33)

As Brown gets closer to the center of the woods, or the devil’s meeting place, there is more revealed about the sinful nature of his peers. This is the progressive pattern in Hawthorne’s wood sequence. He later gets to the sacred meeting and discovers many acquaintances from Salem are part of a witch’s coven and notices they are taking part in a type of sacrificial ceremony. Author James Folsom, who wrote Man’s Accidents and God’s Purposes: Multiplicity in Hawthorne’s Fiction, says, “At the beginning of the

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