If there is one thing to learn from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” then it would have to be that there is a little bit of evil in every aspect of life. In the short story, Goodman Brown leaves his wife Faith, who is “aptly named”, behind to go on a journey into the forest to meet with the devil (102). Along his journey he comes across several members of his town and family. He also witnesses these people taking part in an evil worship service. His symbolic journey into the realm of evil (the forest) opens his eyes to the evil that inherits his family and close friends, and leads to Young Goodman Brown to a loss of innocence. He comes to the conclusion that there is no containing evil, and that evil is apparent in all society.
The first of the allegorical evils was an encounter with Satan in the evil forest. Soon after getting into the forest, Goodman Brown spots a figure in the mist ahead. The figure was the purpose of his journey into the forest. He (the figure) was an older man, which resembled Goodman Brown. The most discerning aspect of this traveler was his staff, “…which bore the likeness of a great black snake…”(103). The traveler’s staff seems to symbolize the evilness of its keeper. Goodman Brown tries to stop his journey into the woods, but he is persuaded (by evil) to keep on going. Satan now starts to introduce the evil that is apparent in his family by talking about his father and grandfather and the things they did in the past. Goodman Brown is surprised at the tales that he is hearing. He does not want to believe that his relatives are not the good Puritans family he has always known them as. Goodman Brown gets is first exposed to the evil in his family that he had never known.
Next, Goodman Brown is exposed to the evil in his religion. He encounters Goody Cloyse, “a very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser…”(104-105). Goodman holds her in a high position, and soon finds out that she is part of the second allegorical evil. She teaches Sunday school and has been a positive role model all of Goodman Brown’s life. This is where Goodman lost much of his faith. He is a deeply religious man, and holds his church mentors in high respect. Nothing could have prepared him for the next travelers, Deacon Gookin and the minister. These three travelers symbolize the evil in the church. The leaders of the church, which are supposed to be the most respectable, honest, righteous men have been corrupted by evil. Goodman had learned from these people, and now feels betrayed by them because they were seduced by evil. Darkness in the church is one of the most unimaginable scenarios, but in society today, evil is everywhere. Goodman Brown, after seeing people he respects most worshipping with witches, begins to doubt his own faith in good, pure people.
Goodman Brown was very fond of his wife. At the beginning of the story he says that he will “cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.” (102). This quote shows how good and pure he thinks his wife is. He holds her in the highest respects. Throughout the story, he makes references to faith. Ironically his wife is called Faith. Her name is used symbolically when Goodman Brown first comes in contact with Satan. Goodman admits to Satan, “Faith kept me back a while.” (103). Goodman Brown was having a conflict with his morals before he journeyed into the forest. When he finds out that the evil has overcome his wife, his religion is totally lost.
Finally, after his journey into the forest (the domain of evil), Goodman Brown Has lost all hope in his religion. He has changed into a self-righteous man who believes that he is the only person that does not worship the devil. His journey into the forest changed Goodman Brown from a “Goodman” into a “stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man” (111). Goodman Browns archetypal loss of innocence is seen as he comes back from the darkness of the woods.