What does Brown expect for his life and for his journey by entering the forest? What his his motive for entering the forest in the first place?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Brown has promised to meet someone, "the figure of a man, in grave and decent attire, seated at the foot of an old tree (736.) What is curious about this man is his staff, "which bore the likeness of a great black snake" (737).  On their journey into the woods, Brown begins to learn that most of the people of his village, people whom he believed to be God-fearing, are engaged in a form of witchcraft.  This is confirmed when he and his travelling companion, who is clearly the devil or one of his minions, reach their destination, a meeting of the devil-worshipers.

Since the story does not make clear whether these events really happen or are all a dream Goodman Brown has, some interpretation of the story is necessary.  Does he go to the wood with his companion in the hope of proving that his fellow villagers are good people and that the devil is incorrect in his assessment of them?  Does he go because he is secretly tempted to join the villagers in devil-worship, thus bringing himself some sort of success?  There is evidence for both interpretations.  For example, Brown continues throughout the journey to protest the evil his fellow villagers are accused of.  But at the "ceremony," someone says, "Bring for the converts," and Goodman Brown "felt a loathful brotherhood by the sympathy of all that was wicked in his heart" (742).  So, did he go to join in, or did he go to prove that he and the rest of the village were above reproach?

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