Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne recounts the disturbing dream of a young Puritan man in Salem. In the dream, Goodman Brown comes face to face with evil and is forced to examine the nature of evil in man. The author also uses symbolism throughout the story of Young Goodman Brown. Nathaniel Hawthornes short story of Young Goodman Brown is a reflection of the Puritan faith as well as mans conflict between good and evil. Goodmans faith or lack thereof is explored in many ways. This analysis will emphasize on the theme of Young Goodman Brown as well Hawthorne s usage of symbolism throughout the story. Goodman Brown is disgusted by the evil he encounters, not realizing his own involvement. The tale embodies the conflict between personal freedom and conventionality, and explores the often fine line between good and evil. Hawthorne dictates the story of a man battling inner demons and in many ways normalcy.
The synopsis of the story is sin and the effect sin has on mankind as a whole. Sin has many ramifications to it that has to be dealt with. One may believe the theme of the story is based on the ability that evil has the power to persuade man to do wrong and the falseness of man's virtues. The story begins with Goodman Brown leaving his wife, Faith for an overnight errand. She begs him not to go, but he does so anyway. Faith is the only symbol of hope in the story. She is his only salvation for his return. She is a symbolic of love, as in the love between man and woman, and also the love, faith and devotion he has in God. In essence, by leaving Faith in the beginning of the story, he is leaving his faith in God and good. Faith is introduced in the beginning of the story as the devoted wife who warns her husband to stay with her because of a dream that she has. Goodman Brown is relying on Faith to redeem him after his visit with the devil. It is obvious later that Faith knows that something is going on and she does not want her husband out in it.
He finds comfort in the fact that he can make it up to faith when he returns. 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 the encounter with his wife prevented him from being on time for his meeting with the devil, but his faith to God also delayed his meeting. Goodman's fight between good and evil is even greater than he realized.
It was a very dark night but Goodman Brown decides that he must go on this journey, but promises to return as soon as possible. Faiths words stayed with Brown and his journey was filled with guilt and fear for leaving her in the back of his mind. As Goodman Brown makes his way into the forest, he is greeted with shadows. Along the way, Brown is accompanied on his journey by many different characters. He runs into a man with a staff that looks like a snake. This man offers the snake staff to Brown and he would not take it. He meets up with Goody Cloyse, who also offers the use of her staff to hurry his walk, and he declines but walks on with her for a good bit. After awhile he broke free and sits down on a stump, declaring that he will not walk any further. As Goodman Brown rested; a wagon passes by and he hears within it familiar voices, including that of his wife Faith. A wind blows by and caught up in a branch, carried by the wind, he finds a pink ribbon. He carries on with his journey at a faster pace, and after awhile comes to a clearing where a ceremony was taking place with many familiar faces. Towns people who were respected within his church and community. It was a communion ceremony of sorts, and his dear Faith was one of the new inductees. The two make eye contact and he cries to her "Faith! Faith!", "look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one." The following morning he finds himself in the forest and wonders what happened the previous night. Whether the previous night events he witnessed were real or his imagination, he believes what he remembers and trusts no-one in the village, not even his wife. Goodman Brown lives the rest of his years a miserable and distrusting man.
When Goodman comes back he thinks he is better than the rest and judges everyone instantly. He then comes to the conclusion that he is the only person that is not a devil worshiper. Goodman Brown is completely shattered and devastated when he awakens form his dream. As he walks the streets of Salem he is unable to separate his dream from reality. He is unable to cope with the discovery that the potential for evil resides in everybody. What makes the experience worse is that everyone that is important to Goodman Brown is in the dream. They are not the people that he thought them to be. The rest of his life is destroyed because of his inability to face this truth and live with it. The dream, has planted the seed of doubt in Brown's mind, which consequently cuts him off from his fellow man and leaves him alone and depressed. From a moral standpoint, Young Goodman Brown is torn between something that was so real that it has left him completely at a loss as to whether or not to believe it or not. His whole world has been shaken. Every important mentor that he has ever had his whole life has just been found out to be something other than what he believed they were. His wife, soul mate and beloved may or may not be involved in something that he can have no part of. Not only is his faith broken but he no longer trusts the ones around him. He is in extreme moral conflict, and does not know who he can turn to because he isn't sure who is involved in this "satanic" cult- or if it even is. The fact that he can't distinguish his dream from reality is quite disturbing. Dare he speak of it and be thought crazy? In the end he lived a long, lonely life, his death was a lonely one, and no one even gave him an epitaph on his tombstone.
Goodman Brown was a man destroyed by his own obsession. He lived a miserable life as a result of the guilt he felt for embarking on a dark journey in his dreams; which resulted in his suspicion of everyone and a lack of trust for individuals in his community, himself and humanity. If only he wouldn't have left standing in the street maybe this would have never happen. What would life be like if he'd never had the dream? The only way Goodman Brown would have been able to save his faith would have been to never embark on the dark path.