A student submission on June’s theme of Good versus Evil
Author: Justin Ogbuafor
Religion plays a prominent role among most people who devote themselves to God. It is important for religious people to keep their faith and devotion to God, even if the Devil tempts them. Religion, in Nathaniel Goodman’s, “Young Goodman Brown,” plays a vital role in the short story. The main character himself, Goodman Brown, being a self-proclaimed faithful man to God was challenged throughout this story. Most importantly, however, is the role of good vs. evil. Will Goodman stay true to his faith, or will he take the path that goes against his faith? With that being said, I argue religion enhances our understanding of Young Goodman Brown to a great extent as his faith in God is being put to test.
First, we see his faith tested in the beginning of the story. After waving his wife goodbye to go about his business, he started to feel guilty on the path he was going, contemplating whether he should still go or not. He stated, “What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand” (Hawthorne 2). With the realization of the path he was about to go on, he continued speedily. He confronts the man he was set to meet in the dark forest, and the man reminds him that he was late. Goodman lets him know, saying, “Faith kept me back a while” (Hawthorne 2). The word “Faith” has two meanings here. First, Faith being the name of his wife, and second, faith being his devotion to God. Goodman sensed that his wife knew that the journey he was going on was not in good spirits, but had evil intentions rather. This alludes to the good vs. evil trend that is continuously played throughout the story. He felt the same way too, which is why he was second guessing.
In addition, faith is continued to be tested as Goodman and the stranger continue to walk through the forest. He started to feel uneasy, and was stern in telling the stranger that he should not continue because his family were known to be honest and good men, but the stranger told Goodman that he had helped Goodman’s father and grandfather commit bad and unjust crimes. All of it is too much for him to handle, he goes and stops on his path. The stranger continues on, meeting with a woman who is found to be Goody Cloyse, his catechism teacher. The term, Goody, describes how well-respected someone is within the community, so for Goodman to see Goody Cloyse in the woods at night is very strange to him. The stranger revealed himself as the devil, and took shape as Goodman’s grandfather. It turns out that she was a witch who performed magic ceremonies and attended witch meetings while teaching children the bible. Continuing on with the Devil, Goodman stops to let him know that because someone who he thought was going to heaven was in talks with the devil, he should not do the same. He sticks true to his faith in God, and his goal to reach heaven with his wife. As you can see, the devil has corrupted many victims, and they’ve all done foul things with him by their side. They have thrown away their innocence and have chosen to follow the Devil. They threw away their faith. Once again, good vs. evil is prominent in this scene specifically. Goodman’s guilt overcame him, and he asked to stop, knowing his family were well respected, but the very path he was fighting with himself to avoid, his parents had already taken. Just like he is about to, they have lost their innocence. Goody Cloyse has done the same thing, which is ironic that her name is Goody Cloyse now knowing that she studies witchcraft. Good vs. evil is the main theme played here, because Goodman Brown is about to find out himself if he is truly a good person like his wife sees him to be, or has he lost his innocence and gone a forbidden path against his faith and religion?
Also, with the example of Goody Cloyse being someone to have followed the Devil, it shows how weak public morality was. The people he felt were good in the eyes of the Lord were followers of the Devil. He hid when he saw Goody Cloyse because he felt ashamed that he was out in the woods going on a journey. He was concerned about how his faith in the Lord would look to other people, especially someone as respectable as Goody Cloyse, but it turns out that she herself wasn’t faithful to the Lord. Goodman’s beliefs connect to those around him who are also religious, but here, this fails. He saw how the people around him were corrupted, and went the same route. What it shows is that your beliefs shouldn’t be rooted from other people, but only yourself. Otherwise, your faith becomes weak.
All in all, religion played a vital part in this story, and how quickly lack of faith had caused many people to become corrupted and turn a new leaf. He went against his own faith when he decided to meet with the Devil in the forest. The devil only facilitated the downfall. With this, he lost his innocence and faith. He went on about life following this, but differently. He started to question the people around him, even his own wife. What he witnessed and went through throughout the course of the short story caused a turning point in his life for the worst. His run-in with the Devil has changed his life completely, even if he didn’t completely follow the Devil’s side, the mental stress that weighed upon him was enough for him to lose all sense of what really happened as well as lose all sense of what’s good in life anymore. Whether what he experienced was a dream or if it was reality, Goodman Brown is no longer the same person, so in conclusion, the devil succeeded in his goal: removing his innocence.