Good and Evil in Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay

Good and Evil in Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay

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Good and Evil in Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne


In “Young Goodman Brown,” there is a fight between good and evil with one main character being torn between the two sides and every other character seemingly on one side or the other through the reader’s view, although many characters do deceive Goodman Brown about whether they are good or evil. This fight between the two sides and the deception that causes confusion for Goodman Brown is the source of tension throughout the entire story. In “Young Goodman Brown,” every character’s traits and dialogue, the setting, and even colors mentioned have double meanings and are symbolic to the main binary oppositions of either good or evil.

In the beginning of the story, Young Goodman Brown “crosses the threshold” of his home, leaving his Faith, whom he calls his “angel on earth” and traveling on a journey into the dark night (page 2186). Right away the reader sees that Faith is symbolic of goodness, although she does wear pink ribbons, a mixture of white and red that symbolizes purity and sexuality, but these are worn in the confines of her marriage, causing the reader to view the pink as being sacred. The journey Goodman Brown is taking is opposite of everything that Faith stands for and immediately appears to be ominous when good Faith begs him to stay with “trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight” (2187). Goodman Brown knows that he is leaving for an “evil purpose,” but feels justified in doing so because “after this one night [he’ll] cling to [Faith’s] skirts and follow her to Heaven,” as if his association with Faith, who represents goodness, will save him and allow him to enter into Heaven even if he enters into the si...


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...odman Brown is forever changed by the revealing of the true deceptive nature of his fellow Christians that night. Everything and everyone he believed in is now viewed as evil, not good. His own worship in church is drowned by “an anthem of sin [that] rushed loudly upon his ear and drowned the blessed strain” of his song (2195). The key fact is that Goodman Brown let the evil images and people take his Faith away, but he never stops being “followed by Faith,” even when she is “an aged woman” and he is “borne to his grave” (2195). He stops loving and living by his Faith, but she never stops loving and living by him. Evil overtakes Goodman Brown, making his dying hour gloom, but Faith remains in the end.


Work Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. 2186-95.

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