Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a satire of the Puritan intolerable system that perceives all non-conformists as sinners. Goodman is an epitome of a typical puritan because of his deep understanding of the religious ideologies and practices. Similarly, he is intolerant to those who do not conform to his religious belief. Goodman plans a visit to the forest at night to meet the devil where he discovered that mankind has a dual nature of evil and goodness. Although his wife implored him not to go and he had the option of not refusing to follow the dark figure into the forest, he continued with his journey. The revelations about evil threw him in a state of doubt that he lost faith in himself and in God. Therefore, the discovery of truth in the forest is a result of Goodman’s decision to surrender to the devil and his evilness, which does not justify his withdrawal and gloom.
The opening paragraph of the story introduces the reader to the impending journey that Brown plans to undertake. Although his wife persuades him to travel during the day, Brown manifests a sense of urgency when he replies “My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back again, must needs be done ‘twixt now and sunrise” (Hawthorne 1). The journey into the dark forest enhances the conflicts within his mind. Evidently, his meeting with the devil depicts his intention of straying away from his goodness and resume his normal life the next morning. However, when he meets the dark figure which implants his mind with ideas, he becomes conscious of the evilness of his journey. Goodman’s pursuit for knowledge compels him follow the devil deeper into the forest, therefore exorcising him from his utopia and destroying his faith.
Goodman is a Puritan minister whose pride has resulted in conflicts with the members of the society. However, after his experience in the forest, he feels liberated from his home values and customs and a dark impulses take over his mind. The appearance of his wife Faith in the dark forest enhances his disillusionment when he states” My Faith is Gone” (Hawthorne 5).Goodman feels overwhelmed by the disappearance of goodness from the world he discovers that is covered by darkness. Instead of gaining knowledge of good and evil during his journey into the forest, he sees everyone as evil. Goodman ought to have taken responsibility of his action for following the devil into the dark forest when he had the option of retreat. At this point, he is in utter disillusionment and remains in the state of cynicism and doubt until his death.
Goodman experiences internal conflict between his Puritan belief and his newly gained knowledge. The discovery that everyone he knows has a dual nature where most appear pious during daylight and evil under the cover of darkness in the forest. Moreover, he also discovers that he is evil when he joins the congregation (Hawthorne 7). Goodman knowingly indulged in sin when he hurried to meet the devil in the evil forest. His thoughts and actions indicate that he was an evil man in disguise “felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose” (Hawthorne 1). Similarly, his journey can be interpreted to imply self retreat and conversation with the devil, where he is convinced that he cannot resist Satan. His witness and participation in sin signifies indulgence in sin which exposes him to the evils around him. As a result he loses faith in everyone including God. Instead of accepting his human weaknesses, he surrenders Satan and spends the rest of his life as a distrustful and gloomy man. All men are naturally evil and Goodman’s hour of death was gloomy because he chose not to see the balance between evil and good.
Hawthorne satirizes the Puritan religious ideology which has subjected the people of Salem to prejudice, resulting in dissatisfaction and disillusionment. However, the Puritans believe that they are righteous and not recognize the evil within them. Goodman willingly embarks on a journey of evilness to meet the deliver where he discovers the truth about the hypocritical nature of humans. Evidently, he did not bother to find out where his experience was a reality or a dream. Instead, he rejected his wife, everyone, and religion. I believe that the choice to become gloomy and withdrawn is not justifiable because he chose to focus one perspective of life without evaluating how they balance. Goodman should have used the truth he gained on that night to improve the Puritan ideologies towards the non conformists. However, he chose to distrust everyone and lived his life in misery and gloom.
In conclusion, Goodman’s discovery of truth does not justify his gloom and withdrawal. He willingly chose to follow the devil, engage in evil and learn the hypocrisy of people around him. I believe that he should have used the knowledge to improve the Puritan ideologies instead of falling to a State of doubt and distrust.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown.