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Young Goodman Brown

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Important Quotations Explained

The Fall of Man

How to Cite This SparkNote

1. On he flew among 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.

This passage, in which Goodman Brown gives up on trying to resist the devil’s temptations, takes up the devil’s staff, and makes his way toward the ceremony, appears about a third of the way into the story. It suggests that some of the shame and horror Goodman Brown feels when he returns to Salem Village may come from his feeling of weakness at having succumbed to evil. Goodman Brown resists the devil while he still believes that various members of his family and community are godly, but when he is shown, one by one, that they are all servants of the devil, he gives in to his dark side completely and grabs the devil’s staff. The change that comes over him after either waking up from his dream or returning from the ceremony can be explained partially by his shame at having fallen so quickly and dramatically into evil.

2. But, irreverently consorting with these grave, reputable, and pious people, these elders of the church, these chaste dames and dewy virgins, there were men of dissolute lives and women of spotted fame, wretches given over to all mean and filthy vice, and suspected even of horrid crimes. It was strange to see that the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the saints.

In this passage, which appears halfway through the story, Goodman Brown sees the ceremony and the dark side of Salem Village. The transgression of social boundaries is one of the most confusing and upsetting aspects of the ceremony. The Puritans had made a society that was very much based on morality and religion, in which status came from having a high standing in the church and a high moral reputation among other townspeople. When Goodman Brown tells the devil at the beginning of the story that he is proud of his father and grandfather’s high morals and religious convictions, he is describing how the society in which he lives values these traits above all others. When Goodman Brown sees the mingling of these two different types of people at the ceremony, he is horrified: the ceremony reveals the breakdown of the social order, which he believed was ironclad. Hawthorne is pointing out the hypocrisy of a society that prides itself on its moral standing and makes outcasts of people who do not live up to its standards.

3. “By the sympathy of your human hearts for sin ye shall scent out all the places—whether in church, bedchamber, street, field, or forest—where crime has been committed, and shall exult to behold the whole earth one stain of guilt, one mighty blood spot.”

Near the end of the story, the devil promises Goodman Brown and Faith that they’ll have a new outlook on life, one that emphasizes the sinning nature of all humanity, and condemns Goodman Brown to a life of fear and outrage at the doings of his fellow man. This dark view of life is a complete turnaround from the ideas that Goodman Brown had held at the beginning of the story. Then, he thought of his family as godly; Faith as perfectly pure; and the Reverend, Deacon, and Goody Cloyse as models of morality. The devil ultimately shows him that his views are naïve and gives him the ability to see the dark side in any human context. When Goodman Brown returns to the village, he trusts no one. As the devil’s speech suggests, Goodman Brown has seen the evil in every human, and once he has started seeing it, he cannot stop.

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