Written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Young Goodman Brown is an allegorical story that focuses on the religious or theological practices of the Puritans. The Puritan society adheres to strict religious practices thus Brown was not an exception. Brown and his newly wed wife, Faith, respect all the people around them because of their belief in God or Christianity.
Though deeply rooted into Christianity, a single night adventure into the forest alters Brown’s belief in Christianity, which affects his relationship with the people in his community. Initially, Brown believed in Christianity but after the awful encounter with the ‘devil’, he changes his perception on humanity and religious beliefs isolating all the people around him including his wife.
Before embarking on the journey to the forest, Brown not only loves his wife, but also practices strict Christianity through holding prayers and other forms of catechisms. Therefore, one might wonder, what prompts him to visit the ‘devil’? The journey to the forest not only suffocates Brown’s religious beliefs, but also separates him from his family and the community.
Brown believed that all the religious people like the deacons and catechists purely practiced Christianity; therefore, he respected them due to their faith. Unfortunately, while in the forest, he sees some of the religious leaders communicating with the devil. Moreover, he also hears the voice of his religious wife Faith.
After the experience in the forest, Brown declares, “my faith has gone” (Donahue, 25), which means he now believes neither in God/Christianity nor in his wife who coincidentally goes by the name ‘Faith’. Brown assumes or starts believing that all Christians or people in the world are hypocrites.
Brown’s journey has a negative impact on both his religious believes, practices, and social life. Unfortunately, Brown now believes that all human beings are pretenders or practice hypocrisy. Additionally, the world lacks humanity and all people sin according to Brown.
When he sees the deacon and other clergymen in the forest, he becomes unhappy, feeling betrayed by people whose role is to ensure Christianity prevails in the Puritan society. As a result, Brown starts seeing the world as an impure place and believes that all the people are unclean. Besides believing in Christianity, people also ascribe to Satanism, which draws hatred in his heart.
Astonishingly, he believes everything the devil tells him especially about his father/grand father visiting the forest yet they came from a society, which upheld morality especially on religion. For instance, when the devil says “whether in church, bedchamber, street, field, or forest-where crime has been committed, and shall exult to behold the whole earth one stain of guilt, one mighty blood spot”, Brown trusts the words and ends up assuming all puritans are evil (Walter 50).
Therefore, the encounter with the devil pushes Brown to believe both in his preaching and in practices losing his contact with Christianity. Eventually, Brown starts living a fearful, lonely, and sad life filled with regrets. The ability to practice dynamic behavior changes his way of life, which keeps himself from other people.
Socially, the community/society that Brown lives in believes in isolating all other people who are non-Christian or who go to the evil forest. Faith is against Brown’s plan of going to the evil forest because of the negative social impact that he may experience. Similarly, Brown is initially hesitant to go to the forest, which proves that nobody is free to go there.
All the people who go to the devilish forest are evil, witches, wizards, and wicked, which is the reason why Brown is hesitant to join the devilish ceremony. For instance, when Brown sees the clergymen talking to the ‘devil’, his parents, priests, and prominent men from his society, he hides behind a nearby tree because of the debilitating social impact that may befall him.
The freedom of worship lacks in the society because those who visit the devil have to do so at night. Brown decides to meet the devil at night; the same night he sees people from his community in the forest. Thusly, most of the people in the Puritans society practice Christianity in daytime to fit in the community.
Due to Brown’s social belief of shunning all the people who practice Satanism, he decides to stop communicating with everybody including his wife. Although he does not reveal to anybody about his experience in the forest, it is wide open that the devil alters his mind, corrupting his social life.
In summary, Brown’s decision to meet the devil corrupts his mind completely changing his religious and social believes. Consequently, his social life, especially his marriage, becomes useless leading him to live a fearful life. As a Puritan who upholds religious beliefs, he isolates all the people who juggle between Christianity and Satanism including his wife.
Due to fear, he neither loves nor trusts his wife yet he does not physically see her at the ceremony in the evil forest. Finally, he shuns the priests, deacons, and other religious people in the community leading him to lead a miserable life.
Donahue, Jane. My Faith is Gone! ‘Young Goodman Brown’ and Puritan conversion, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown. England: Chelsea House, 2005.
Walter, Shear. Cultural Fate and Social Freedom in Three American Short Stories Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown. England: Chelsea House, 2005.