08 Sep 2012
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story entitled Young Goodman Brown is about a man who takes a journey to the forest and attends a congregation, but he does not know what is waiting him there. Goodman Brown, the narrative’s protagonist believes that his faith is consistent, true, and immovable, but as he takes his journey to the forest, readers realize that the main character’s faith is too shallow. He himself creates evil thoughts, which makes his faith weaker. As he walks to the forest, he becomes attached to evil and makes his belief disrupted. The conflict of good versus evil is depicted through Goodman Brown’s unstable mind, inconsistent faith, and distrust to the people around him.
The conflict of good versus evil emerges through Goodman Brown’s unstable mind—and only his wife, Faith, is trying to keep his faith still. When Young Goodman Brown is about to leave, his wife said: “Then God bless you! And may you find all well when you come back” (Hawthorne 190). Goodman Brown’s journey is for the benefit of evil, but Faith is trying to restrict her husband to continue his travel. When Goodman Brown wants to pursue his travel, the only think that Faith can do is to bless him and ask for his return. However, though Goodman Brown is blessed by his wife in his journey, he knows that evil exists because on his way to the forest, he said: “There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree. What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!” (191) Due to his unstable mind, Goodman Brown is prone to evil thoughts. Even if he has a faith and belief in his religion, he cannot stop thinking of negativity because his path leads him to evil.
Conflict between good and evil exists when Goodman Brown begins his distrust to the people around him. As he thinks about the devil and his wife, Goodman Brown asked the traveler: “Friend, my mind is made up. Not another step will I budge on this errand. What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil when I thought she was going to heaven: is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith and go after her?” (195) As Goodman Brown walks into the forest, he encounters different people taking their journey to the congregation. They are the respected and prayerful individual in his community. As he sees them, he starts distrusting them, which makes him think of going back to his wife. Goodman Brown does not know how to identify the difference between good and evil in the middle of his journey, so when he sees Faith into the congregation, he said: “My Faith is gone! There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given” (197). Faith is not only the protagonist’s wife, but also his belief in his religion. When he says his Faith is gone, it means that his faith to his community is gone because evil builds a devilish thought against people around him.
Goodman Brown experiences conflict of good versus evil due to his inconsistent faith. The forest is a symbolism of evil because there is “no church had ever been gathered or solitary Christian prayed” (196)—and Goodman Brown takes this path as a sign of his union with the devil. Despite of his wife’s disapproval, the protagonist continues his journey, which proves his inconsistent faith to his religion. When he is about to see the congregation and feel the evil spirit within his midst, Goodman Brown shouted: “With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” (196) The protagonist is trying to use his faith to keep him away from harm, but his soul is offered to the evil. Seeing his community being part of the congregation is a justification of his inconsistent faith because he does not trust anyone around him, even his faith that should only be his source of strength. As he demonstrates his inconsistent faith, his evil attacks his body, mind, and soul.
Goodman Brown is a good man, but he fails to bring his faith in his journey to the forest. The conflict of good versus evil emerges when he decides to leave Faith and takes his journey alone. He leaves his faith in his house and thinks that he can overcome any obstacle in his path, but he is unsuccessful because unstable mind, inconsistent faith, and distrust to the people around him become the instrument of evil to own his mind, body, and soul. As a result, Goodman Brown’s mind, body, and soul is eaten by the evil—and no matter how he try to keep his faith, he cannot return from his belief because the evil lies within his wholeness.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” 190-203.