As the name suggests Young Goodman Brown is a young mild mannered puritan who sets out of a devil mission in the forest and loses his faith in religion his innate innocence and becomes a grim man joyless, gloomy and sad. Goodman Brown is a good christian who has recently married Faith. He takes pride in his family’s history of piety and their reputation in the community as godly men. His curiosity however leads him to accept an invitation from a mysterious traveler to observe an evil ceremony in middle of the forest one that shocks and disillusions him.
At the beginning of the story Goodman Brown is headed out on a mysterious and evil journey into a dark forest. He is a family man and he is not shy about it. First he sticks his head back in the door to plant a kiss on his cute little wife and then he heads off muttering about how his forefather would totally never have taken this kind of errand: ‘my father never went into the woods on such an errand nor his father before him’. So we know that brown thinks of himself in comparison to other people specifically the ones he is related to. He doesn’t have a clear identity of his own. In fact young Goodman Brown starts off as if in a blank slate of mind representing every man. But when he meets the mysterious traveler and learns about his family’s history of wickedness he finds that his ancestors were notorious criminal. So he is not as clean as he thought himself to be for the hereditary guilt he shares.
In the forest young Goodman Brown resists villainous temptations. But we are convinced that he fails to resist them consciously or subconsciously. Goodman Brown just watches from a distance and freaks out internally. He is constantly standing in the background as Hawthorne says he ‘deemed it advisable to conceal himself within the verge of the forest’. He is not exactly a man of action.
There is a difference between standing in the background and actually taking a stand against evil. Young Goodman Brown’s actions don’t hurt many people directly. But they don’t exactly leave him on the side of good. In one moment of frenzied despair he gives himself over to ‘the instinct that guides mortal man to evil’ and starts running around like a maniac. When he finally does take a stand to ‘resist the wicked one’ it is too late. He is doomed himself to a lifetime of misery.
Young Goodman Brown doesn’t give in to the dark side of ‘wickedness’. He simply gives in to a different one the dark side of pessimism and misanthropy. He experts that at any moment the fury of the heavens will destroy the evil town of Salem.
Young Goodman Brown the protagonist of the story stands out as a vivid character as he is in the first place a loving husband a social man and a good Christian. But with the progress of the story he loses his innate goodness discovering all pervading evil around him.