Young Goodman Brown – Nathaniel Hawthorne
In Salem, Massachusetts, in the 17th century, in a community of god-fearing Puritans, lives Young Goodman Brown. He is leaving his house and his young wife of three months, Faith, at dusk on an errand which will keep him away from home the whole night. He is going to a witches’ sabbath to be inducted into devil worship.
His journey takes him through the forest which he enters with mixed feelings of doubt and excitement. There he meets a strange man with a staff that resembles a serpent. Goodman Brown expresses his doubts about his mission and the man, who seems to be a devil figure, accompanies him while trying to persuade him to carry through his mission. The fact that he hears and sees various supposedly upright figures of the community, including men of the cloth and his own catechism teacher, persuades him that his disillusionment with the Puritan faith is justified. However, he is truly shocked to see his own wife at the meeting. At the moment of baptism he calls her to look up to heaven and resist, at which point everyone disappears and he finds himself alone in the forest.
The experience turns him into a bitter and disillusioned man who never again can trust any member of his community. He dies a suspicious, desperate man.
Nathaniel Hawthorne did not publish this story in Twice Told Tails perhaps because it was too personally autobiographical and failed in the original conception as an allegory. Perhaps when he started to write it and gave the principal characters their names, he believed that it would be allegorical. However, apart from Young Goodman Brown as Everyman, or Faith as, literally, faith, the other characters are not archetypes. They could even have been real people to Hawthorne. Indeed, the devil figure is suggested to resemble his ancestors. Perhaps the catechism teacher and the churchmen were also real people in Hawthorne’s life.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was brought up in the Unitarian church so...