In Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'Young Goodman Brown,' Hawthorne introduces Goodman Brown, who doubts himself and reiterates his false confidence to himself repeatedly. His struggle between the evil temptations, the devil, and the proper church abiding life, is a struggle he does not think he can handle. This story is about a man who challenges his faith in himself and in the community in which he resides. Goodman Brown must venture on a journey into the local forest, refuse the temptations of the devil, and return to the village before the sunrise. The story is set in the forest of Salem, Massachusetts, around the time of the witch trials. Goodman Brown is a Puritan, and Salem is a Puritan village appears to be a good Christian community in the beginning of the story.
Hawthorne once again criticize on a Puritan community or the religious community of his time through this short story. In this short story, Hawthorne criticizes the Puritans who take the words of Bible without interpretation, and who believe they are pure but inside the evil resides just as in the people they persecute. The story begins with Goodman Brown leaving the house at sunset while his wife, Faith, trying to persuade Goodman to depart at sunrise. Brown starts his journey to the darkness that awaits for him in the forest where Puritans believe the devil lives.
Hawthorne seems to be using many symbolisms in the story such as Goodman's wife Faith which symbolizes his real faith in God. Goodman leaves his faith behind him and set forth into his journey with his own strength and power. Although he felt guilty leaving his Faith back home in their early stage of marriage, he justifies this guilt by swearing that after this night he will 'cling to her skirt and follow her to heaven.' However, will there be another day for Goodman Brown to share his life with Faith? Although his faith, described with 'pink ribbon,' is sincere, pure, and innocent, is his will strong enough to walk though 'a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest?' Goodman believes nothing can tempt his faith, not even a devil. Upon entering the forest he is suspicious of every rock and tree, thinking something evil will jump out at him. A man waits for Goodman in the forest and then walks by Goodman's side.
Although the narrator does not say this man is the devil, he indicates such when this man in the forest says, ' The clock of the Old South was striking, as I came through Boston; and that is full fifteen minutes agone,' and seems to have the supernatural power to move faster than normal humans. This man also has a staff in the shape of black snake, the symbol of darkness and evil. Goodman follows the devil deep into the forest, not knowing what he would encounter, but he is very confident that he can handle it. The temptation of the devil has begun when Goodman falls behind and the devil offers his staff for him to use. Goodman simply rejects his offer and passes the first temptation. Goodman prides himself by telling the devil that he and his family have been ' a race of honest men and good Christian,' but the devil exploits something that shocks Goodman.
The devil tells Goodman that his family and whole community went through the forest with the devil as they tortured women in Salem or burned the villages of Indians to the ground, and afterwards the devil and his ancestors would go for a 'pleasant walk.' Goodman's journey continues undisturbed until he meets his old catechism teacher, Goody Cloyse, who has changed dramatically. Goody Cloyse already has acquittance with the devil, and she asks the devil for help so she can get to the meeting. The devil drops the staff before her which made Goodman Brown astonished. Although this view deters confidence, he continues down the trail looking for hope in the heavens passing another test to fail him.
When Goodman worries about his catechism teacher, the devil offers him to stay until he feels like moving again. Goodman Brown is excited to tell the story of the forest to the minister next morning. While he thinks to himself that he has done a good job not falling in to a trap of the devil, he hears voice which turns out to be the minister and Deacon Gook in. Goodman Brown wonders where they are going this late night. With another confirmation of that he will 'stand firmly against the devil,' he follows ' a confused and doubtful sound of voices.' When Goodman sees some of his community in the deep forest, he questions what they are doing and almost faints with sickness. The visible blue sky still signals there is still little bit of faith left in Goodman, but eventually the 'black mass of cloud' covers the blue sky.
Goodman loses every faith he has when he sees Faith in the crowd, and when he seizes Faith's pink ribbon, purity of faith, on the branch. Goodman shouts 'my faith is gone!' , and finally grabs the staff and starts to rush onward. Goodman finally lets the devil to win over his faith and destroys his faith in Faith. When he reaches the final destination where whole community is there to participate in satanic acts, a little faith he has to the community and himself are completely destroyed. The devil has apparently infested all of the Puritan's souls with sin at least to the eyes of Goodman Brown. While he tries to help his wife Faith from the devil, he wakes up from imagination or dream in the forest wondering what has happened in the previous night.
Whether the scenes he witnessed were real or his imagination, Goodman believes what he remembers and trusts no one in the village when he returns, not even his wife. Goodman seems to live the rest of his life with misery and distrust. In the beginning of the story, Goodman is a faithful man who is able to pass any temptation the devil gives him. He is happy with the community and his faith until his trip. Upon his discovery of Satanic acts of the community, he becomes an evil himself. When Goodman comes back he thinks he is better than the rest and judges everyone instantly.
Young Goodman Brown fails the test of the devil completely not only because he loses his faith in living life, but also he has no hope after life since he became an evil.