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"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.
How to Cite this Page
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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