Examining the Conflict of Good versus Evil in Young Goodman Brown Essay
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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story entitled Young Goodman Brown is about a man who takes his journey to the forest to attend a special congregation—without knowing its real purpose in his life. Goodman Brown, the narrative’s protagonist believes that his faith is constant, true, and immovable, but as he takes his journey to the forest, readers realize that the main character’s faith is depthless. He creates evil thoughts throughout his journey, which makes his faith weaker, especially when he encounters the prayerful and vigilant people of his community during his walk.
As he steps into the forest to attend the congregation, the evil starts to shake his faith and begins to disrupt his beliefs. The conflict of good versus evil is depicted through Goodman Brown’s unstable mind, inconsistent faith, and distrust to the people around him. This conflict changes Goodman Brown’s idea of trust and faith, as well as his way of life and relationship to others, especially his wife.
The conflict of good versus evil emerges through Goodman Brown’s unstable mind, but his wife, Faith, is trying to keep his belief. When Young Goodman Brown is about to leave, his wife said: “Then God bless you! And may you find all well when you come back” (Hawthorne 190). Goodman Brown’s journey is for the benefit of evil—though he insists that it is for him and Faith, but his wife is trying to restrict him to continue his travel. However, even if Goodman Brown is blessed by his wife in his journey, he is aware of the evil’s existence and its power to hide and seek in the forest.
While walking, he said: “There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree. What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!” (191). The devilish Indians are symbolisms of evil in this novel—and due to his unstable mind, Goodman Brown is prone to evil thoughts. Even if he has faith and belief in his religion, Goodman Brown cannot stop himself from thinking about negative thoughts because the evil is leading him to the devil’s congregation. Therefore, Goodman Brown’s unstable mind serves as the evil’s instrument to disrupt his faith.
Conflict between good and evil exists when Goodman Brown begins his distrust to his community. As he thinks about the devil and his wife, Goodman Brown asked the traveler: “Friend, my mind is made up. Not another step will I budge on this errand. What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil when I thought she was going to heaven: is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith and go after her?” (195) As Goodman Brown walks into the forest, he encounters different people taking their journey to the congregation—they are the prayerful and religious ones in the community.
As he sees them, he begins to distrust them, which makes him think of going back to his wife. Goodman Brown does not know how to identify the difference between good and evil in the middle of his journey, so when he sees Faith into the congregation, he said: “My Faith is gone! There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given” (197).
Faith is not only the protagonist’s wife, but also a symbolism of his belief in his religion. When he says his Faith is gone, it means that his faith to his community disappears because he believes that these people lives with the devil and not with their God. Goodman Brown fails to trust the people around him and think that they are evil because deep inside him, he is defending himself from being part of the devil.
Goodman Brown experiences conflict of good versus evil due to his inconsistent faith. The forest is a symbolism of evil because there is “no church had ever been gathered or solitary Christian prayed” (196)—and Goodman Brown takes this path as a sign of his union with the devil. Despite of his wife’s disapproval, the protagonist continues his journey, which proves his inconsistent faith to his religion. When he is about to see the congregation and feel the evil spirit within his midst, the protagonist realizes that his faith is gone with him.
As he tries to restore his faith, Goodman Brown shouted: “With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” (196). The protagonist is trying to use his faith to keep him away from harm, but his soul is offered to the evil. Seeing his community being part of the congregation is a justification of his inconsistent faith because he does not trust anyone around him, even his faith that should only be his source of strength. As he demonstrates his inconsistent faith, his evil attacks his body, mind, and soul.
Goodman Brown is a good man, but he fails to bring his faith in his journey to the forest. The conflict of good versus evil emerges when he decides to leave Faith and takes his journey alone. He leaves his faith in his house and thinks that he can overcome any obstacle in his path, but he is unsuccessful because unstable mind, inconsistent faith, and distrust to the people around him become the instrument of evil to own his mind, body, and soul. As a result, Goodman Brown’s mind, body, and soul are eaten by the devil—and no matter how he tries to keep his faith; he cannot restore his belief because the evil lies within his wholeness.