Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne: Summary | Short Story

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Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne: Summary | Short Story 


Young Goodman Brown


ABOUT THE STORY

Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This short story "Young Goodman Brown" was written by an  American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was published in 1835. It takes place in 17th-century Puritan New England.

This story is about a young man named Goodman Brown, who leaves his wife, Faith and and travels into the woods one night. While being there, he sees most of pious members of his community performing a demonic ritual. Shocked by this, Goodman Brown comes back to the village and no longer trusts anyone. The main theme here in this story is loss of faith. It is one of the most prominent themes from "Young Goodman Brown". After the bizarre experience of event in the forest, the main protagonist loses his faith, and he struggles to trust anyone ever again. 


FULL PLOT SUMMARY

Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The story starts with the main character Goodman Brown. He is bidding farewell to his wife, Faith, outside their house in Salem Village. His wife Faith is wearing a pink ribboned cap. She requests him to stay, but he explains that he has to travel for just one night. He reassures her that if she says her prayers and goes to bed early, nothing bad will happen to her while he's away.

Goodman Brown begins walking through a dark forest. He encounters a man on the way who seems to have been expecting him. The man seems quite ordinary. He is carrying a walking stick with him. This stick is similar to a lifelike carved serpent. Goodman Brown explains that he came because he had made the promise but he wants to go back to the village. He feels ashamed to be associated with the man because his family has been good Christians for generations. The man claims that he knows the father and grandfather of Goodman Brown's father, and also other church members in New England, and even the state governor.

The man's words puzzle Goodman Browsays that even if this is so, he insists on going back to the village for the sake of his wife, Faith. Suddenly, both of them encounter an old woman in the woods. Goodman Brown recognizes her as Goody Cloyse, a very pious as well as respected woman from the village. He hides himself as the man taps Goody Cloyse on the shoulder. She calls him the devil and reveals herself to being a witch and heading to the devil's wicked forest ceremony.

Even after learning this surprising information, Goodman Brown tells the man that he still wants to turn back, for his wife Faith’s sake. Before disappearing, the man provides Goodman Brown with his staff. He suggests to him that if he changes his mind he can use it for transportation to the ceremony. While sitting and gathering himself, Goodman Brown listens to the sounds of horses moving along the road. He hides himself once again. Soon he hears the voices of the church's minister and Deacon Gookin, who are heading to the ceremony. He becomes quite shocked seeing this. He swears to stay loyal to God for the sake of his wife, Faith, despite believing that everyone else has turned to the devil. As he hears voices from the ceremony, he thinks he recognizes Faith's voice. He yells out her name, and a pink ribbon from her cap falls from the sky.

He feels convinced that there is no goodness left in the world as Faith has also turned to evil. Goodman Brown takes the staff and swiftly travels through the forest to reach the ceremony. When he arrives there, he observes the faces of both respected and disreputable community members. But Faith's absence in the ceremony gives him a glimmer of hope.

A figure appears in the ceremony and asks the congregation to reveal the converts. The minister and Deacon Gookin drag Goodman Brown forward. Goody Cloyse and Martha Carrier bring forward another person whose identity is concealed. The figure hints that the two converts will now see all the wickedness of the world. He instructs them to reveal themselves to each other. Goodman Brown's dismays doing so. He also discovers that the other convert is his wife Faith. He urges Faith to resist the devil and look up to heaven, but suddenly, Goodman Brown finds himself alone in the dark forest.

The next morning, when Goodman Brown comes back to Salem Village, everyone he encounters appears wicked to him. He rejects the minister's blessing. He accuses Deacon Gookin of being a wizard. He also interferes when Goody Cloyse questions a young girl about Bible verses. When he sees Faith, he refuses to greet her too. It's not certain whether the forest encounter was a dream or real. But for the rest of his life, Goodman Brown is different. He can't trust anyone in his village and even struggles a lot to fully love his wife. He lives the rest of his life in sadness and fear.


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