In “Young Goodman Brown,” the setting plays an important role. It provides symbolism to certain events and provokes emotions amongst the characters, especially those of Goodman Brown. The central idea of the story is the conflict in Goodman Brown between joining the devil and remaining “good. ” It is a very difficult journey for Brown, as he travels through the woods, all the while thinking of the “good” things he would be leaving behind, like his wife Faith.
This internal conflict ultimately destroys Young Goodman Brown and creates a new man. At the beginning of the story, Goodman Brown sets out on his journey at sunset, symbolizing darkness and evil. Before Brown leaves, he kisses his wife, Faith, goodbye. The name Faith is intentionally used to symbolize the faith in God that they both share and also what Brown leaves behind to go on his journey. Faith wears pink ribbons in her hair, which give the impression that she is an innocent godly woman.
Before Brown leaves on his journey, Faith says, “pr’y thee, put off your journey until sunrise. ” This is showing that sunrise is a more pleasant and peaceful time to go on a journey rather than at night when it is considered dangerous to roam about. This sets the mood for Brown’s adventure and foreshadows that something horrible is about to happen to him. As Brown starts on his adventure, he remembers that his wife had dreams of this particular adventure, dreams that warned him not to go.
This feeling of uncertainty sparks a feeling of anxiety in Brown as he continues walking through the forest and on with his journey. Soon after, the scenery around him begins to change and the road becomes “darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. ” This quote describes the dark and gloomy surroundings that Brown walks through on his journey and creates the mood of fear and hesitance as he continues on his way.
As Brown walks along, he comes to encounter a man dressed in grave and decent attire. The man states, “You are late, Goodman Brown,” and Brown replies by saying, “Faith kept me back awhile. ” In literal terms, he speaks of his wife, but metaphorically he could be speaking of his faith in God and how it almost kept him from embarking on his journey. Later on in Brown’s journey, he meets a man with a cane that resembles a snake, symbolizing evil.
Brown then protests against the devil saying, “With heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil! ” He lifts his hands to pray, and a huge black cloud hides the stars to which he prays upon. This black cloud symbolizes evil destroying Brown’s faith. Throughout Brown’s journey dark and light, white and black, all play a part in creating the setting for Brown’s surroundings. When Brown returns home, it is daylight; this symbolizes innocence and freedom from the journey he just experienced.
Throughout the story, Brown goes from being a static character to a dynamic one. The reason for this transformation is because of his conflict with “the devil” which is external, and by the conflict within himself which internal. The conflict Brown shares with the devil is caused by the devil tempting Brown to join the dark side. The way in which the devil lures Brown is by convincing him that his relatives and town’s people have already crossed over to the dark side and denied their faith.
The struggle that Brown now faces is whether to follow his relatives and town’s people, or to follow his faith in God and deny the devil, which is Brown’s internal conflict. These internal and external conflicts turned Brown into a dynamic character by the end of the story. Instead of believing and trusting that his relatives and friends are godly, he now knows that they have all been tempted by the devil and many have crossed over to the dark side; he went from being trusting to skeptical of his friends and his faith.
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