The Downfall of Young Goodman Brown

"Young Goodman Brown", by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a story that is thick with allegory.
"Young Goodman Brown" is a moral story which is told through the perversion of a religious
leader. In "Young Goodman Brown", Goodman Brown is a Puritan minister who lets his
excessive pride in himself interfere with his relations with the community after he meets with the
devil, and causes him to live the life of an exile in his own community.
"Young Goodman Brown" begins when Faith, Brown's wife, asks him not to go on an
"errand". Goodman Brown says to his "love and (my) Faith" that "this one night I must tarry
away from thee." When he says his "love" and his "Faith", he is talking to his wife, but he is also
talking to his "faith" to God. He is venturing into the woods to meet with the Devil, and by doing
so, he leaves his unquestionable faith in God with his wife. He resolves that he will "cling to her
skirts and follow her to Heaven." This is an example of the excessive pride because he feels that
he can sin and meet with the Devil because of this promise that he made to himself. There is a
tremendous irony to this promise because when Goodman Brown comes back at dawn; he can no
longer look at his wife with the same faith he had before.
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 his
wife physically prevented him from being on time for his meeting with the devil, but his faith to
God i psychologically delayed his meeting with the devil.
The Devil had with him a staff that "bore the likeness of a great black snake". The staff
which looked like a snake is a reference to the snake in the story of Adam and Eve. The snake led
Adam and Eve to their destruction by leading them to the Tree of Knowledge. The Adam and
Eve story is similar to Goodman Brown in that they are both seeking unfathomable amounts of
knowledge. Once Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge they were expelled from their
paradise. The Devil's staff eventually leads Goodman Brown to the Devil's ceremony which
destroys Goodman Brown's faith in his fellow man, therefore expelling him from his utopia.
Goodman Brown almost immediately declares that he kept his meeting with the Devil and
no longer wishes to continue on his errand with the Devil. He says that he comes from a "race of
honest men and good Christians" and that his father had never gone on this errand and nor will he.
The Devil is quick to point out however that he was with his father and grandfather when they
were flogging a woman or burning an Indian village, respectively. These acts are ironic in that
they were bad deeds done in the name of good, and it shows that he does not come from "good
When Goodman Brown's first excuse not to carry on with the errand proves to be
unconvincing, he says he can't go because of his wife, "Faith". And because of her, he can not
carry out the errand any further. At this point the Devil agrees with him and tells him to turn back
to prevent that "Faith should come to any harm" like the old woman in front of them on the path.
Ironically, Goodman Brown's faith is harmed because the woman on the path is the woman who
"taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser." The Devil and
the woman talk and afterward, Brown continues to walk on with the Devil in the disbelief of what
he had just witnessed. Ironically, he blames the woman for consorting with the Devil but his own
pride stops him from realizing that his faults are the same as the woman's.
Brown again decides that he will no longer to continue on his errand and rationalizes that
just because his teacher was not going to heaven, why should he "quit my dear Faith, and go after
her". At this, the Devil tosses Goodman Brown his staff (which will lead him out of his Eden) and
leaves him.
Goodman Brown begins to think to himself about his situation and