After his encounter in the forest with Goody Cloyse, Goodman Brown tries to resist the devil's temptations by raising what issue?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's story, "Young Goodman Brown," Brown discovers, to his horror, that the woman who taught him his catechism (Goody Cloyse) is in league with the Devil, and he is horrified and disheartened.

At this point, Brown sits down on a tree's stump along the forest's path and refuses to proceed with the Devil any farther on their journey.

The argument Brown presents to the Devil is that even if Goody Cloyse had been responsible for teaching him about his faith while he has all along believed her to be a good woman of God, what would possess him now to abandon his wife, Faith, to follow the old woman instead?

If Brown's speech here is figurative, he may be arguing with the Devil or himself, but "Faith" may not refer to his spouse, but to his belief in God, and his determination is not to stray from the "straight and narrow" path that leads to heaven. His argument would sound a great deal like a parent's admonishment, "If Johnny decides to jump off of a bridge, does that mean you will do it too?" He is saying, "no."

Brown may mean that just because a woman he believed had a strong faith fails, and chooses to "traffic" with the Devil, it does not mean that he will turn his back on what he believes simply because the old woman's faith was not strong enough.

The irony is that at the end, Brown does almost the same thing. He may not intentionally join the Devil, but he does turn his back on Faith and his religion, and in this manner, the Devil may be thought to have "won" anyway.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While Goodman Brown is traveling through the forest, he spots Goody Cloyse, who had taught him his catechism as a child and is considered a spiritual adviser throughout the community. Suprised, Goodman immediately attempts to hide from the path in order to avoid Goody Cloyse but watches as she has a friendly conversation with the devil. After witnessing Goody Cloyse disappear on the devil's staff to the ceremony deep in the woods, Goodman Brown stops walking and says,

"Friend . . . my mind is made up. Not another step will I budge on this errand. What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil, when I thought she was going to Heaven! Is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith, and go after her?" (4)

Goodman Brown is arguing that simply because a wicked woman pretending to be a morally-upright Christian abandoned her faith, does not mean that he should turn his back on his religion and belief. Essentially, Goodman Brown realizes that there is absolutely nothing forcing him to follow in Goody Cloyse's footsteps. He sees no correlation between her decision and his choice to turn back to the village. Goodman feels no obligation to continue his journey at this point and contemplates preserving his faith.

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Young Goodman Brown

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