Goody Cloyse first appears in the story as Goodman Brown and the devil make their way down the path in the dark forest. Her presence at that particular time and place surprises Goodman Brown, particularly because he knows her as a “a very pious and exemplary dame.” The contrast between this initial description of her and her quick acknowledgement of the devil makes Goody Cloyse a key example of the hypocrisy inherent in the Puritan community. For someone who teaches children their catechism and serves as a spiritual leader, Goody Cloyse’s desire to have the devil, whom she refers to as “your good worship,” personally escort her to his ceremony is deeply troubling. The fact that the first community member that Goodman Brown sees in the forest is a woman adds to his shock, for her appearance challenges the traditional notion that women are particularly pure-hearted. Goody Cloyse ultimately represents what could become of Goodman Brown’s wife, Faith, should she choose to succumb to the devil’s influence. Their positioning next to each other at the ceremony in the forest deepens this symbolism.
The other key aspect of Goody Cloyse’s character is her name. Hawthorne selected the name of a real woman, Sarah Cloyce, convicted of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials for this character, a choice which adds another layer to his critique of Puritan values. Sarah Cloyce, along with her two sisters, faced witchcraft accusations in 1692 and maintained her innocence throughout trial. Goody Cloyse, on the other hand, is in fact a witch worshipping the devil, but her community continues to hold her in high esteem. Using the name of a falsely accused woman for a character whose guilt goes unacknowledged highlights the absurdity of Puritan value systems and the horrors of the Salem Witch Trials.