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Is the Fellow Traveler in Young Goodman Brown Friend or Foe?

Friend or Foe?

"Why did Goodman Brown leave his wife to fulfill an evil purpose?" "What was his evil purpose?" "Who did he meet in the woods?" "Was it a dream or was it reality?" These are just a few of the questions that ran through my head after reading the short story, Young Goodman Brown. After several nights of reading, rereading, thinking, and debating I've received many revelations of this story; one being the true identity of the "fellow-traveler" mentioned throughout this adventurous tale. You see, he was not just any man, he was the devil himself.

In the beginning of the story, after Goodman Brown leaves his wife and begins his journey through the woods, fear starts overcoming him. He creeps slowly along the path in the forest and is in constant torment because he isn't sure of what lies behind every rock and tree. He even said out loud, "What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!" (Hawthorne 383). Then, just as he turns around, a man appears. How ironic. The man tells Goodman Brown that the "clock of the Old South was striking" as he came through Boston and that was "fifteen minutes agone" (Hawthorne 383). If thought is put into this statement, you will come to realize that this is impossible. The story took place in Salem Village and Boston is seventeen miles away from there. Traveling by horse, because that was the quickest way to travel in the 1800's, this journey would have taken an entire day; no one could have possibly made the trip in fifteen minutes.

Another sign that upholds the fact that the traveler is the devil is the staff that he carries. It bears "the likeness of a great black snake" and it seems at times to move "like a living serpent" (Hawthorne 384). Ever since the beginning of time, serpents have been an accepted symbol of evil. In the Garden of Eden, Eve was tempted by the devil in the form of a snake; and when she gave into the temptation, she caused all of humanity to fall into the bondage of sin. In the same way, the fellow-traveler tempts Goodman Brown by constantly persuading him onward into the forest, which in turn would crush his Faith.

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