Delusion In the darkness of night, newly-wed Goodman Brown, resident of Salem Village, has a dark and ominous experience of the Powers of Evil, which are very terrifying. Unable to transcend the paradoxes of his life, as he experienced it, he lives out the rest of his days in deepest gloom. The story may be read in several ways. The ambiguities of the narrative make it possible to consider Goodman Brown experience as an unholy dream. “Be it so if you will. But alas! It was a dream of evil omen for young Goodman Brown.
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, line 376-378) The narrator never definitely says whether it was a dream or an actual experience that Goodman Brown had in the forest. However, by use of ambiguous phrases such as “it seemed,” “as if it were . . . ,” or “he could have sworn,” the reader is led to believe that Brown took part in a meeting of witches and wizards. Hawthorne deliberately structured the story to suggest two different interpretations: (1) Goodman Brown dreamed his nocturnal experience in the forest; (2) Goodman Brown actually experienced a witches’ meeting near Salem Village in the days of Goodies Cloyse, Corey, and Carrier.
One cannot accept one interpretation to the exclusion of the other. The Romantic ironist, when he presents a paradox, invites the readers to accept multiple meanings simultaneously. The narrator relates the reaction of Young Goodman Brown, who finds the mixing of the so-called “good” people with the so-called “wicked” people to be “irreverently consorting” in the clearing in the forest. The verb “consort” is packed with meaning; it is often used in judgments about someone’s illicit sexual behaviors or even their alleged relations with the devil.
In this scene, Young Goodman Brown sees himself as above everyone else; he believes that he is the only one remaining true to the community’s beliefs and thus is the only one with the right to judge everyone else. The main character is being tested, in a sense, but the test consists of him being forced to reconcile a rigid belief system with the complexities of the real world in which everyone is mix of the sinner and the saint, not simply one extreme or the other. That’s the test that the main character fails, in my view. Brown, as a result of his commerce with the devil, spent the rest of his life in gloom.
After his night in the forest, Goodman Brown, no longer able to listen to the congregation sing a holy psalm on the Sabbath, turns pale, dreading lest the roof should fall in on the congregation when the minister speaks of “the sacred truths of our religion,” and of “future bliss or misery unutterable. ”(Hawthorne, line 383) “Often awakening suddenly at midnight, he shrank from the bosom of Faith; and at morning or eventide, when the family knelt down at prayer, he scowled and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his wife, and turned away.
And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave, a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an aged woman, and children and grandchildren, a goodly procession, besides neighbors not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom. ”(Hawthorne, line 385-390) Furthermore, the story begins with Young Goodman Brown bidding farewell to his beautiful wife Faith: “And Faith, as the wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap while she called to Goodman Brown. Dearest Heart,’ whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, ‘ prithee put off your journey until sunrise and sleep in your own bed to-night. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she’s a feared of herself sometimes. Pray tarry with me this night, dear husband of all nightsin the year. ” (Hawthorne, line 2-8) It was a very ominous parting. Goodman Brown decides that he must go on this journey, but promises to return as quickly as possible.
Faith’s words stayed with Brown and his journey was tainted with guilt fear for leaving her in the back of his mind. As Goodman Brown makes his way into the forest, he is besieged with shadows. “There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree,” he ponders, and “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow! “(Hawthorne, line 32-34) Along the way, Brown is accompanied on his journey by miscellaneous different characters. He runs into a man with a staff that looks like a serpent. This man offers the serpent staff to Brown and he would not take it.
He meets up with Goody Cloyse, who also offers the use of her staff to hurry his pace, and he declined but walked on with her for a good bit. After a while he broke free and sits down on a stump, declaring that he will not go any further. “Friend,” said he, stubbornly, “My mind is made up. Not another step will I budge on this errand. What if a wretched old woman does 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? You will think better of this by and by,” said his acquaintance, composedly. “Sit here and rest yourself a while; and when you feel like moving again, there is my staff to help you along. ” (Hawthorne, line 142-147) As Goodman Brown sat and rested, a wagon passed by and he heard from within it familiar voices, including that of his beloved Faith, and a great wind blows by and caught up in branch, carried by the wind, he finds a pink ribbon.
He carries on with his journey in a hurried pace, and after a while comes to a clearing where a ceremony was taking place with many familiar faces, and people who were respected within his church and community. It was a communion ceremony of sorts, and his dear Faith was one of the new participants. The two make eye contact and he cries to her “Faith! Faith! “, “Look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one. ” (Hawthorne, line 356) We are left to speculate whether or not she went through with the ceremony. Goodman Brown falls into a heavy sleep, awakes the next morning and makes his way home. Turning the corner by the meeting-house, he spied the head of Faith, with the pink ribbons, gazing anxiously forth, and bursting into such joy at the sight of him that she skipped along the street and almost kissed her husband before the whole village. But Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a greeting. ” (Hawthorne, line 369-373) The fact that Goodman Brown’s wife is named Faith, and the very fact that he has to have faith in her, that he as to trust her in the end when he can’t even decide if he trusts himself as to whether or not he saw what he saw-the pink ribbons.
They are a sign of purity and innocence, yet Faith is supposedly being inducted into witch craft. The characters that Goodman Brown meets in the forest- the first man with the serpent staff is likened to the devil. From a moral standpoint, Young Goodman Brown is torn between something that was so real that it has left him completely at a loss as to whether or not to believe it or not. His whole world has been shaken.
Every important mentor that he has ever had his whole life has just been found out to be something other than what he believed they were. His wife, soul mate and beloved may or may not be involved in something that he can have no part of. He is in extreme moral conflict, and does not know who he can turn to because he isn’t sure who is involved in this “satanic” cult- or if it even is. Dare he speak of it and be thought crazy? In the end he lived a long, lonely life, his death was a lonely one, and no one even gave him an epitaph on his tombstone.