For Hawthorne, the author of "Young Goodman Brown," the forest primeval is symbolic of a moral wilderness. In his story, Goodman ventures out on the night of the black mass; believing himself among the elect, he challenges the devil. For, Brown symbolizes man's predilection for evil as he is tempted to follow the path that leads to the forest.
When his wife Faith asks him to tarry with her, Goodman detects some trouble in her face,
...as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight.
With ...excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose.
When Young Goodman Brown ventures forth, he wonders, "What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!" Just then, a man approaches who bears
...a considerable resemblance to him, thouth perhaps more in expression than features.
Additionally, the old man has the appearance of one well acquainted with the world, and his staff resembles a "great black snake" and it even wriggles like a serpent. And, there are other indications of the old man's evil nature: He urges Goodman into the forest; he tells his companion that he is well acquainted with the Puritans; and he attests to having helped Brown's grandfather lash the Quaker woman through Salem's streets, and he helped Brown's father set fire to an Indian village. He has been with many other "select men" of "divers towns."