Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne provides historical, societal, religious, scientific and biographical contexts. The story is set in the period of the Salem Witch Trials in Puritan New England. The story describes Brown's journey into the depths of the forest, where he believes that he sees many of the members of his community, including his wife Faith, attending a satanic ceremony. The narrator implies that Brown may be sleeping, but either way the experience was real. It affected Brown very much. The story is often read as Hawthorne's condemnation of Puritan ideology, as it proposes that Puritan doctrine could strain so much doubt that believers were doomed to see evil-whether or not it truly existed-in themselves and especially in others. Within the short story of Young Goodman Brown, one can find evidence that collectiveness in communal life would be considered moral and that individualism would be considered unmoral in society. Eventually it becomes clear that a communalist life style is a necessary evil. Through Goodman Brown’s discovery of the corruptibility that results from Puritan society’s emphasis on public morality, one can piece together the idea that man is a social being and must be included in some type of community; whether the community itself is moral or unmoral.
When Brown is approached by another traveler with a large staff that looks like a snake; the devil’s staff was encircled by a carved serpent. This comes from the biblical symbol of the serpent as an evil demon. In the Book of Genesis, the serpent tempts Eve into eating the forbidden fruit from the forbidden tree; which defied God’s will. When the devil tells Brown to use the staff travel quicker, Brown takes his advice, just as Eve, he is ultimately condemned for his weakness and losing his innocence. In addition to representing Eve’s temptation, the serpent symbolizes their curiosities, which lead them into being tempted. Brown’s decision to go into the forest was motivated by his curiosity, just as Eve’s decision to eat the forbidden fruit was led by her curiosity as well. The staff implies that the old man is more of a demon than a human and that Goodman Brown travels on the path toward evil when he takes it to travel.
Goodman Brown represents anyone; he is basically any and every man. When the symbolism started at the beginning of the story Brown was first described as young and newly married. His wife Faith, whose name and character bears much significance, represented many different ideas. Goodman Brown can symbolically be viewed as a believer and a follower of God. Brown and “Faith’s” relationship is still being established, he does not completely cling to faith.
Each time Goodman Brown refers to her, it is only too clear that he may in fact be referring to his own personal faith in God, life, and humanity, which is questioned to the point of breaking in this narrative. In fact, it seems that Faith is not even a character, so to speak. Rather,...