Plot: “Young Goodman Brown” tells a tale of a man named Goodman Brown and his journey into a forest one night. That night, he said goodbye to his wife Faith, who begged him not to go and stay with her. He went anyway and met with a man on the road. Goodman Brown and the man conversed on the way, while Brown was trying to convince the man that he is a good Christian and does not want a part in evil, saying that his family and the ones before him were Christians and good people; Brown did not want to be different.
The man replied him saying that he knew Brown’s father and grandfather, as well as members of his church and the governor of the state. Brown was surprised by all what the man was saying, but soon found out when he finally reached the destination of his journey, the ceremony where he and a young woman are to be new converts.
There, he saw faces of many respected members of the community, the minister, deacon, good Christian men and women and Indian priests. However, Brown does not see Faith and is hopeful that she might not be there.
To his disappointment, Brown sees that his wife Faith is the other convert. He then tells Faith to look up to heaven and resist the devil, at this moment, Brown found himself alone in the forest. When Brown returned home to Salem Village in the morning, everyone seemed evil to him, including the minister, the deacon praying and even his wife.
Brown was not sure if his forest encounter was a dream or reality and he lived the rest of his life in despair. Structure: The incidents in the story were arranged chronologically. There was a beginning and an end, with events happening in between.
There were no flashbacks, but there might have been some foreshadowing, to hint that maybe Brown’s wife Faith will be at the ceremony. Type of Story: “Young Goodman Brown” is a short story, as defined by Robert DiYanni (2008), it revealed the characters “in dramatic scenes, in moments of action and in exchanges of dialogue” (p. 47). The story also include several characteristics of short story, such as a realistic time and place setting; recognizable human characters motivated by identifiable social and psychological forces; and a plot which illustrates a sequence of related events (DiYanni, 2008, p. 7). It told a complete story with set-up, conflict and resolution.
Characters: The main characters of the story are Goodman Brown: a young, curious, good Christian and a newlywed husband of Faith; Faith: a young, beautiful wife of Goodman Brown; and the Old Man: a cunning, evil man that tempts Goodman Brown into attending the ceremony. Other characters of the story are Goody Cloyse, the Minister and Deacon Gookin. All three are Christians and respectable members of the community, but in secret, as reveled at the ceremony, they all appeared to be followers of the devil.
Setting: The story takes place in Salem Village. The majority of the story happened in a gloomy forest and at night. The setting could be symbolic of the events that happened in the forest. Sorcery, witch craft, the devil and evil are often associated with darkness and nighttime. “Young Goodman Brown” was no different, the ceremony took place at night and Goodman Brown had to travel through a dark, gloomy forest to get there. Symbolism: There were objects and events that served as symbols in the story.
These symbols and events represent the devil, witchcraft and sorcery. The snakelike staff the old man had with him, several mentions of fire, the dark gloomy forest and the actual ceremony all represents evil. The author made this clear to the readers by having Goodman Brown point out what seemed evil throughout the story. Language and Style: The language and informal style of the story is similar to the time period in which the story was written.
At that time, people spoke the way the author wrote and actual attacks took place on accused witches of the time. This can be seen with the famous Salem Witch trials in history. Theme: A theme that can be identified in the story is that of the unclear distinction between dreams and reality. The readers were presented with a blurred line between reality and dream or the supernatural. For example, it is hard to discern if the witch gathering Brown experienced in the forest actually took place or if it was a dream.
Even though Brown’s life changed dramatically as a result of the forest incident, as readers, we are not clear as to if it really happened or he dreamt it. Historical Context: The author references events that took place in the Puritans’ history. The story demonstrated awareness of the social, economic and political happenings of the era it was written. For example, there are accounts of the Salem Witch trials actually taking place, and various fights between the Indians and Colonists, which the author made mention of Indians in the story.