Young Goodman Brown

by: Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Old Man/Devil

In “Young Goodman Brown,” the devil appears to be an ordinary man, which suggests that every person, including Goodman Brown, has the capacity for evil. When the devil appears to Goodman Brown in the forest, he wears decent clothes and appears to be like any other man in Salem Village, but Goodman Brown learns that the devil can appear in any context and not appear out of place. By emphasizing the devil’s chameleon nature, Hawthorne suggests that the devil is simply an embodiment of all of the worst parts of man. By saying that the devil looks as though he could be Goodman Brown’s father, Hawthorne creates a link between them, raising the questions of whether the devil and Goodman Brown might be related or the devil might be an embodiment of Goodman Brown’s dark side. Later in the story, Goodman Brown, flying along with the devil’s staff on his way to the ceremony, appears to be a much more frightening apparition than any devil could be by himself. Although it is never fully clear whether the old man and Goodman Brown’s experiences in the forest were a dream or reality, the consequences of Goodman Brown’s interaction with the old man stay with him for the rest of his life.