Why does young Goodman Brown go to meet the devil?

Hawthorne gives no explicit reason as to why Goodman Brown travels into the forest to meet the devil beyond the fact that the pair had a meeting arranged. As Goodman Brown makes his way into the forest to fulfill his agreement to meet, however, he attempts to justify his behavior by arguing that he will “follow [Faith] to heaven” after this one journey. This logic, which he feels rather confident in, seems to imply that a sense of curiosity drives him to meet with the devil. The temptation of the unknown becomes too alluring for him to resist.

Why is “Young Goodman Brown” considered an allegory?

“Young Goodman Brown” is considered an allegory because it tells two types of stories at the same time, one literal and one symbolic. The base narrative is the tale of Goodman Brown, a man of faith from Salem Village who journeys into the woods to meet the devil. The symbolic narrative tells the story of the fall of man and expresses the notion that giving into evil can have substantial consequences. Character names, such as “Goodman” and “Faith,” work to reference the broader moral concepts that make up Hawthorne’s allegory.

Is young Goodman Brown’s meeting with the devil a dream?

Hawthorne does not explicitly say whether or not Goodman Brown’s experiences in the forest are a dream. In fact, he poses this question directly to the reader and replies, “Be it so if you will.” This answer leaves it up to the reader to decide if Goodman Brown merely “dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting,” an approach which ultimately pushes the reader to consider their own beliefs about the nature of evil. 

How does young Goodman Brown change throughout the story?

At the beginning of the story, Goodman Brown has a sense of confidence both in himself and about the world around him. He feels rather certain that after his dark journey into the forest he will be able to return to Faith and live a pure life, and he views the members of his community as morally upright people. The deeper he travels into the forest and the closer he comes to the devil, however, the more his binary world view breaks down. His experience teaches him that the capacity for evil exists in everyone, and this information drives him to develop a very bleak and fearful view of the world.

How are the characters’ names symbolic?

Character names are one key element that Hawthorne uses to establish “Young Goodman Brown” as an allegory. “Goodman,” for example, implies that the character of Goodman Brown represents the figure of a good man, or one who is morally righteous. The name “Faith” suggests that Goodman Brown’s wife is a symbol of purity and spirituality, concepts to which a good man should be fully committed. As the relationship between these two characters shifts, so does the relationship between the broader concepts they represent.