Young Goodman Brown by Nathanial Term Paper

Total Length: 1089 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

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Brown sees the initiation of a new "soul" into the devil's dark group, and this symbolizes the disintegration of Brown's own soul. He may not have "danced with the devil" in the forest, but the devil has still corrupted his soul. Another critic notes, "The devil, in the form of doubt and duplicitous thoughts, has done his work within the heart and soul of Goodman Brown, even if the physical details of the story are merely a reverie. Hawthorne removes the mask of piety from his characters to show that the real devil is the one lurking within each individual" (Maus 76). Indeed, Brown allows the devil to take over his life and ruin it just as effectively as if he had signed over his soul and received something in return. Hawthorne writes, "A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man, did he become, from the night of that fearful dream" (Hawthorne 73). Thus, Hawthorne uses Brown as a symbol of the success of the devil's corruption. Did he only dream everything he saw in the forest? Perhaps. Even if he only dreamed of the devil, he allowed him to corrupt his soul, kill his love, and change his life, so the devil won, and Brown lost. This symbolizes the evil in each of us, but it also symbolizes just how powerful the devil can be. Even if Brown only imagined him in the forest, he is still a powerful force in the story and in Brown's remaining life. It has to make the reader question Brown's conviction.
He is determined to believe that those around him are corrupt and evil, and yet he has become worse than they are - unhappy and unloved. Those around him are happy, even if they are corrupt, while he is "desperate" and "distrustful." Who is the more evil in this story? Brown becomes the most evil member of the village, and yet he is convinced that he is the only "good" influence in the town. He cannot see that everything he symbolizes is evil and distrustful of others.

In conclusion, the symbolism in this story is full, rich, and very meaningful. Brown runs into the Devil in the dark forest, and he never will forget the evil he has seen (or at least thinks he has seen). He also sees the people in his village in a new and evil light, and discovers that many of the people he trusted are evil cohorts of the devil. This symbolizes the evil around everyone, and his own naivety as well. It also symbolizes a person's ability to resist evil (or not). Each person must evaluate their experience and decide whether to believe it or not. Brown allows his experience to color his entire life, and because of this, he becomes even more evil and desperate than the devil he met in the forest.


Crowley, J. Donald. Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge, 1997.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Mosses from an Old Manse. Vol. 1. New York: John B. Alden, 1888.

Maus, Derek. "The Devils in the Details: The Role of Evil in the Short Fiction.....

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