“Young Goodman Brown,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is an excellent short story from the 1800’s. In this short story Hawthorne’s main character, Goodman Brown, goes out into the woods with the devil and is tempted by the devil each step of the way. In “Young Goodman Brown,” Hawthorne uses characters who are leaders of their community and symbolistic settings to show that despite how prominent a person is he or she is capable of evil under the right conditions.
Through the use of community leaders, Hawthorne shows that there is evil in everyone. As Goodman Brown heads into the woods with the prince of darkness, he encounters several of his community leaders creating evil. First, he and Satan encounter Goody Cloyse, Goodman’s spiritual adviser and former catechism teacher. After Goodman goes off among the trees, the devil and Goody have a conversation. Instantly, Goody recognizes him as the devil. Then Satan says, ‘“Then Goody Cloyse knows her old friend?”’1 The conversation later reveals Goody is a witch and is on her way to the Black Sabbath. Shortly afterwards, as Goodman was resting, Deacon Gookin, Goodman's other spiritual advisor, walks by with a minister. He and the minister are talking about missing a church ordination dinner to attend the satanic gathering. The deacon says,’”Besides several of the Indian powwows, who, after their fashion know almost as much deviltry as the best of us,’”(311). The whole time Goodman is on the trail, he is committing sin. Every step of the way, he is forsaking his god. He slowly succumbs to sin as the lord of the underworld coaxes him. At the meeting, when a voice screamed out, ‘”Bring forth the converts!’”(315), Goodman steps forward, accepting evil. Under the right settings, anybody is capable of evil.
Using the right settings, Hawthorne creates symbolistic environments to make so called heavenly characters turn to evil. In the village of Salem, the villagers look up to Deacon Gookin and Goody Cloyse as highly spiritual people. The village of Salem is symbolistically any town or church, and Deacon Gookin and Goody Cloyse are the “sinless” leaders of the church. Along the path in the woods, Goodman Brown watches the deacon and Goody committing sins and not grieving over their sins. The path in the woods is temptation, and each step taken brings one closer to accepting evil and sin. At the Black Sabbath in the woods, the converts are baptized into evil. The Black Sabbath itself is full pledged evil, and the baptism into evil is totally turning away from god. By using symbolistic settings, Hawthorne sets characters up to create evil.
Using symbolistic settings and leading citizens, Hawthorne says that everybody is capable of sin. Hawthorne wrote a great short story with one distinct message. Everybody commits sins, but not everyone accepts sins.