Temptation, at one time or another, has touched all of our lives. What made us choose one path over the other? Was it your faith in God, your knowing of what was right and wrong, or was it the influences of the loved ones you not only surround yourself with, but the one you have trusted to lead down the straight and narrow. All of these questions come to light in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown. Hawthorne’s tale is of a young, newly wedded man, and his internal struggle between faith and temptation.
Set in Salem, at the times of the witch trials, Young Goodman Brown begins to question his own faith as the devil himself sheds new light on Brown’s strong beliefs. “With heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the Devil! ”… Or will he? Young Goodman Brown prepares to leave on his lonely, life-changing journey, by first saying good bye to his wife of three months. Faith as his wife is called, for symbolic reasons I’m sure, fears for her husband and wishes him to stay. This good bye is Brown’s chance to choose faith over temptation.
Poor little faith, thought he, for his heart smote him. What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! ” Brown gives in to temptation. This won’t be the last time. Being scared and alone on his journey, Brown talking to himself says, “What if the devil himself should be at my elbow! ” A few more steps and Brown now has a companion; coincidence? I think not. “The only thing about him that could be fixed upon as remarkable as his staff, which bore the likeliness of a great black snake… like a living serpent.
It was after this initial greeting and Brown noticing his companion’s walking stick that Brown once again was torn between his faith and the temptation of the errand he was on. Goodman Brown tries to convince himself he is doing wrong and turn back. “Having kept covenant by meeting thee here, it is my purpose now to return whence I came. I have scruples touching the matter thou wot’st of. ” The devil tempts Brown in to continuing. “Let us walk on, reasoning as we go; and if I convince thee not thou shalt turn back. ” Again Brown gives in to temptation. “Too far!
Too far! Exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk. ” Brown argues with the devil, trying to convince him that he is a good Christian, like his father and his grandfather. Brown is convinced that no other member of his family has chose this path of temptation. Goodman Brown’s perception of his family’s good name is shattered by the companion’s (devil) recollection. “I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that’s no trifle to say. ” These are not the only perceptions that his companion so earnestly shatters.
On this path Goodman Brown also observes his minister, the honorable Deacon Gookin, his catechism teacher, and even his beloved wife. Could it be that the persons that he holds in the highest respects have also chosen the path of temptation? His perceptions and beliefs are once again destroyed. With these overwhelming contradictions of his faith, Young Goodman Brown gives in and attends the witch meeting to be converted to a devil worshiper. At the ceremony Brown is joined by his wife as they together join in the “communion of their race.
But even in this end, Brown tried to choose the right path, and tired to convince his wife to do the same. “Faith! Faith! Cried the husband, look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one. ” Goodman Brown awakens the next morning. Did he actually attend the witch meeting, did he actually convert to devil worship…or was it all a dream. Brown goes into town the next morning. As the devil had torn and shattered Brown’s perceptions and beliefs, so has he now created a new picture of life for the young Brown to see. Brown now looks on the towns people, especially the ones he once held in high regards, through untrusting eyes.
The next morning young Goodman Brown came slowly into the street of Salem village, staring around him like a bewildered man. ” From beginning to end, Brown’s faith was in question; no matter how strong his faith, temptation was stronger. Brown tried many times to turn back, but as the devil tore away at his beliefs, the further the young man traveled down the lonely path of temptation. Weather it was a dream or reality; the faith of Young Goodman Brown has been weakened. Is it too late, or can the Young Goodman Brown regain the strength of his faith by “standing strong against the devil? ”