Faith in “Young Goodman Brown”In the allegorical short story entitled “Young Goodman Brown”, author Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the irony of words and their connotations to express his ideas. The most evident example of this word inference is the used of “Faith” as the name of Young Goodman Brown’s wife. Religiously, faith can be defined as “the belief and trust in God and in the doctrines expressed in the scriptures or other sacred works” (Merriam-Webster). Hawthorne uses the relationship between Brown and his wife to parallel that with his own personal faith.
Although relatively new, as affirmed by Brown when he asks Faith, “Dost thou doubt me already, and we but three months married?” (Hawthorne) Brown’s relationship with both his wife and faith can be seen as strong and stable. Brown tends to mostly deal with small temptations which all of mankind must encounter. His journey into the forest specifically represents to Brown a temporary breaking point in the relationships as seen when he states, “After this one night, I’ll cling to her his wife, Faith skirts and follow her to heaven”. (Hawthorne) Followers affiliated with a sect of the Christian faith often find themselves justifying their sinful behavior by promising God that it will be a solo occurrence.
When Brown first encounters the Devil in the forest, he replies to the Devil’s reproach for his lateness, saying “Faith kept me back awhile” (Hawthorne). Brown genuinely desires to flee from the journey with the Devil. He endures the exposure of truth that the deacons and selectmen of his village which he previously held in high regard traveled the same path in which he was on; and the discovery that Goody Cloyse, the woman who had taught him his catechism, is a witch does not influence his determination to turn back: “What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil when I thought she was going to heaven: is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith and go after her?” (Hawthorne) His naivety and innocence convinces him at this time that he will return to town with a clear conscious and live life “so purely and sweetly now, in the arms of Faith!” (Hawthorne)
As he travels deeper into the forest towards the Witches Sabbath, Brown calls three times to Faith for help, and it is not until he notices the pink ribbon from Faith’s cap fluttering from the sky and caught on a branch of a tree that he discards all hope, calling out “My Faith is gone” (Hawthorne). When Brown finally reaches the meeting of the townspeople, his hope rises again because his wife Faith, whom he expects to see is not there. However, she soon unfortunately joins him and the others whom are about to undergo initiation. They are the “only pair, as it seemed who were yet hesitating on the verge of wickedness in the dark world” (Hawthorne). They stare at each other in frightened anticipation, and for the last time Brown calls out for help: “Faith! Faith!…Look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one” (Hawthorne). But “whether Faith obeyed he knew not” (Hawthorne). The whole scenario of the witches’ Sabbath vanishes in an instant, and Brown finds himself alone in the wilderness.
Whether we think of the experience of the witches’ Sabbath as a dream or a “real” occurence, it must be said that the event changed Brown’s life forever. Although he goes home to Faith, and the town remains the same as it was before the journey, Brown’s perception of it differs immensely. He despises the clergy of the church and mocks their sermons. He no longer sees Faith the same anymore for when she runs to him in the street he “looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a greeting” (Hawthorne). The revalation of truth that Brown experiences in the forest that night tests his faith and ultimately his faith is lost.