Study Guide

Young Goodman Brown Good vs. Evil

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Good vs. Evil

With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose. (8)

Oh, yeah, we're totally going to start that diet tomorrow. And do all of our homework ahead of time. And keep our rooms clean. And stop going on nefarious journeys in the middle of the night. Tomorrow.

"The devil!" screamed the pious old lady.

"Then Goody Cloyse knows her old friend?" observed the traveller, confronting her and leaning on his writhing stick.

Oh, boy, let's count the creepy things about this passage: (1) Seriously, is that guy really the devil? (2) The stick. It's writhing. (3) The friendly neighborhood lady is friends with the devil. (4) The STICK is WRITHING.

The whole forest was peopled with frightful sounds—the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild beasts, and the yell of Indians; while sometimes the wind tolled like a distant church bell, and sometimes gave a broad roar around the traveler, as if all Nature were laughing him to scorn. But he was himself the chief horror of the scene, and shrank not from its other horrors. (51)

Haunted houses at the state fair have nothing on this: all of Nature is laughing at the poor guy. But notice that what he's really afraid of is himself. Another check in the column for "it was all just a dream"?

On he flew, amid the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting forth such laughter, as set all the echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous, than when he rages in the breast of man. (53)

And is this is why Shmoop has no trouble watching monster movies, but has to leave the room when the Dateline special on serial killers comes on: evil is way, way freakier when it looks like the friendly guy next door.

They did so; and, by the blaze of the hell-kindled torches, the wretched man beheld his Faith, and the wife her husband, trembling before that unhallowed altar.

You think you're eloping to Vegas, and all of a sudden you have "hell-kindled torches" and "unhallowed altars" instead of a chapel and a preacher dressed like Elvis. Talk about spooky.

"Lo, there ye stand, my children," said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad with its despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race. "Depending upon one another's hearts, ye had still hoped that virtue were not all a dream. Now are ye undeceived. Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome again, my children, to the communion of your race." (65-66)

So, basically, you stink, I stink, the world stinks, and we should probably all just give up and go back to bed before we pollute the world with any more of our evil. Someone get this guy some Prozac already.

"Faith! Faith!" cried the husband. "Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One!"

Whether Faith obeyed he knew not. Hardly had he spoken when he found himself amid calm night and solitude, listening to a roar of the wind which died heavily away through the forest. He staggered against the rock, and felt it chill and damp; while a hanging twig, that had been all on fire, besprinkled his cheek with the coldest dew. (69-70)

Pull out the highlighters, because this is important: we (and Goodman Brown) never actually know if Faith turns evil. That's not much to base a lifetime of misery on, if you ask us.

The next morning young Goodman Brown came slowly into the street of Salem village, staring around him like a bewildered man. The good old minister was taking a walk along the graveyard to get an appetite for breakfast and meditate his sermon, and bestowed a blessing, as he passed, on Goodman Brown.

Think it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood? Think again: evil lurks beneath.

He shrank from the venerable saint as if to avoid an anathema. Old deacon Gookin was at domestic worship, and the holy words of his prayer were heard through the open window. "What God doth the wizard pray to?" quoth Goodman Brown. Goody Cloyse, that excellent old Christian, stood in the early sunshine at her own lattice, catechizing a little girl who had brought her a pint of morning's milk. Goodman Brown snatched away the child as from the grasp of the fiend himself.

What we're into here is the contrast between what the narrator says—"the venerable saint," "that excellent old Christian"—and the way Goodman Brown reacts. So, who's right? The narrator, who sees the good in people… or Goodman Brown?

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 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. (71)

Here's our question: who's more evil? The pretty Faith, wholeheartedly delighted to see her husband home safe? Or the mean old Grinch, who won't even say hi to his lovely wife? Yeah. That's what we thought.

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