As the narrative begins, young Goodman Brown looks out at the sun setting over Salem Village and, after he steps outside, turns back to kiss his wife, Faith, as she stands in the doorway of their home. Faith, with the pink ribbons on her cap blowing in the gentle breeze, begs her husband not to leave her alone for the night. Goodman Brown insists that, of all nights of the year, this is the one where he must leave her and go on his journey before sunrise. He instructs Faith to say her prayers and go to bed at dusk to prevent harm from coming to her while he is away. As he reaches the end of the street, Goodman Brown turns back to look at his wife, still gazing longingly at him from the doorway. He regrets that he must leave her to go on such an errand and, from the troubled look in her eyes, wonders if a dream has given her some intuition as to what dark work is to occur. Quickly, however, he reassures himself that this cannot be the case as Faith is a pure and heavenly woman.
Considering his actions justified, Goodman Brown continues down a dark road through the gloomy forest on his way toward an evil purpose. As the foliage seems to close around him on his narrow path, Goodman Brown gets the sense that anyone or anything could be lurking among the trees. He passes a crook in the road while looking back at the path behind him, and as he returns his gaze forward, he sees a man sitting at the base of a tree. Upon Goodman Brown’s arrival, the man rises and walks alongside him, criticizing the fact that he was late to meet him. Goodman Brown nervously confesses that Faith delayed his departure. The pair continues to walk through the deepest parts of the forest as dusk falls, the mysterious man looking almost like an older version Goodman Brown himself. Differentiating the two, however, is the man’s large staff which appears and almost seems to move like a large black snake. The man tries to convince Goodman Brown to take the staff, but he refuses and replies that he has only come to the forest to keep an agreement and do nothing more.
The man seems to think that Goodman Brown will change his mind, and as he adamantly disagrees, he reveals that other men of the Brown family have worked with him in the past. Goodman Brown insists that he was unaware of these relationships and the evil acts that came from them, a reply that brings the man to admit that he has a connection to almost everyone in New England. This revelation shocks Goodman Brown and makes him wonder how he could possibly trust people like the minister in Salem Village now that he has this information. As the man laughs at this response, Goodman Brown insists that he cannot break Faith’s heart by continuing to follow him.