After he keeps his appointment with the traveler in the forest, Brown announces that he plans to return home. Why does he not do so immediately, and why at each stage when he renews his intention...
After he keeps his appointment with the traveler in the forest, Brown announces that he plans to return home.
Why does he not do so immediately, and why at each stage when he renews his intention to do so does he proceed deeper into the forest? Is there any reason to suppose he does not actually see and hear what he thinks he perceives?
Keeping his appointment to meet the Devil in the forest, Goodman begins to walk with Satan and even has a conversation with him before saying that he must go home. Brown's hesitation to return home alludes to the nature of temptation. Temptation is often physically gratifying and enticing, which is why Goodman Brown does not immediately travel home. The Devil is also a convincing character and encourages Brown to continue his journey because his father and grandfather have done so in the past. After traveling deeper into the forest, Goodman Brown sees Goody Cloyse and decides to rest on a log. Goodman again tells the Devil that he refuses to go any further and begins to meditate on how great it would feel to remain faithful by not going through with the wicked ceremony. Once again, Goodman cannot fully resist the temptation and fails to recite a prayer as he begins to lose his faith. At each stage of Goodman's journey, the temptation becomes stronger, which alludes to the slippery slope of sin. With each sin, the person finds it easier to continue engaging in their wicked acts.
There is also evidence that suggests Goodman is dreaming or hallucinating during his journey. He sees Goody Cloyse essentially disappear, the Devil's walking stick transforms, and he watches as a dark cloud blocks his view of the sky at the specific moment he is about to pray. The voices emanating from the cloud and his ability to seemingly fly through the forest indicate that Goodman is probably dreaming or hallucinating.
I perceive this as being directly related to a biblical allusion...one that involves being tempted, as Jesus was by the Devil. Brown is also being tempted in various ways. Also, Jesus was tested many times. Brown was also tested in the forest.
Brown's experiences are very dreamlike, so there is a definite theme of illusion vs. reality here, so yes, there are reasons to suppose he doesn't not actually see or hear what he things is 'real.'