In identifying his story “The Man in the Black Suit” as an homage to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” Stephen King encourages the reader to identify the numerous similarities between the stories. The most obvious similarity is the basic plot of a young male character’s encounter with a horrendous figure whom he quickly identifies as the devil. Both stories are also located in a rural area near a small town, and include references to the dangers of the forest. In both, the youth and the devil converse, and the protagonist ultimately escapes the devil and returns to his community and his home.
King’s story is not simply a modern retelling, however, but differs significantly from Hawthorne’s earlier creation. One difference is the dual perspectives of Gary, who is both an elderly man reminiscing on a horrible event and the young boy having that experience. Goodman is presented as a young married man at one point in his life. In addition, Gary does not enter the forest, but Goodman does. Furthermore, after Gary escapes, he runs straight home. Goodman, however, continues his adventures and encounters numerous other townspeople, who were engaged in sinful or suspicious acts. Perhaps most important, Gary stays on the path of righteousness and, upon his return, is supported by his father. Goodman was lured into the evil events—at least in his imagination—and both he and his wife took part in a satanic ceremony.