‘Young Goodman Brown’ is a classic allegorical story that exposes an intense inner conflict of the protagonist. The protagonist is a young innocent and good Christian. Out of curiosity or for any reason he undertakes a daring journey into a dark forest where he discovers his inner sinful state.
Like a tragic hero Goodman Brown hides an inherent weakness towards evil purpose. Despite his wife’s imploring he lives her to undertake the evil mission. The description of the dark forest creates a fear and uncertainty in the mind of the readers. Brown is soon approached by a man of about fifty who bears deceptive appearance and carried a staff that resembled a great black snake and seemed to move like a living serpent. He soon discovers that the fellow traveler is in fact the devil in disguise that is persuading Goodman Brown to attend the communion of evil. Time and again Goodman Brown protests the trip insisting that he must turn around. The readers feel pity for Brown as he feels scruples manifested in his restlessness in company of the devil.
Goodman Brown shows both innocence and corruptibility as he vacillates between believing in the inherent goodness of the people around him and believing that the devil has taken over the minds of all the people he loves. At the beginning of the story Goodman Brown believes in the goodness of his father and grandfather until the old man likely the devil tells him that he knew them both. Goodman Brown believes in the Christian nature of Goody Cloyse the minister and Deacon Gookin until the devil shows him that Goody Cloyse is a witch and the other two are his followers. The readers feel pity when finally brown believes that faith is pure and good until the devil reveals at the ceremony that faith too is corruptible. This vacillation reveals Goodman brown’s lack of true religion his belief is easy to shake.
The climax of his mental conflict occurs when brown begins to hear voices and among them the lamentations of faith. He shouts her name but hears only an echoes and then silence. A pink ribbon faith’s ribbon flutters down from above. The readers are sympathized when ‘maddened with despair’, Goodman Brown gives in to the devil and rushes forth into the forest laughing louder and louder until he reaches the fathering. He resolves ‘evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness’. Goodman Brown is led to the altar where a cloaked female figure is also led. A dark figure prepares to welcome them into the fold. The cloaked woman is revealed to be faith. Before the figure could lay the mark of baptism on Goodman Brown he called to faith to ‘look up to Heaven and resist the wicked one’. The conclusion of the story then begins when he suddenly finds himself alone in the forest as if he has just awakened from a dream. What he experienced in the forest whether dream or reality changes his life. He is now suspicious of everyone just as the puritans of real life Salem were when they participated in a witch hunt that resulted in the execution of innocent people. The conflict pitifully leads him to be ‘a stern a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man.
Thus it is clear that an intense conflict like the protagonist of a tragedy awakes Goodman Brown to the evil nature of him and those around him.