What are Brown’s values at the end of the story "Young Goodman Brown"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"Young Goodman Brown" is another narrative concerned with Nathaniel Hawthorne's indictment of Calvinism and the psychological probing into the heart of man. 

In the beginning, the naive Goodman Brown is convinced that he is of the elect; so certain is he of his faith that he ventures out at night to the forest primeval with a "not unexpected companion." Asserting that his father and other relatives are good Christians, Goodman decides shortly that he should turn back. But, the old traveler scoffs at him, saying that he is well acquainted with Brown's relatives,"They were my good friends." In fact, the old man resembles Goodman's grandfather.

As he traverses the path to the forest, Goodman encounters two pillars of his church, Goody Cloyse, who has taught him his catechism, and Deacon Gookin; and, he is shocked to see and hear them speak excitedly of the night's meeting. Later,when he sees Faith at the meeting, Brown is completely disillusioned: 

"My Faith is gone! ...Come, devil; for to thee is this world given."

After this experience of the depravity of those he has considered among the elect with him, Goodman Brown realizes Calvinism is diabolical, rather than divine. He rejects Faith when she greets him, for he no longer believes in anything but "misery untterable," the depravity of man, and he despairs of any chance to merit salvation, having seen the hypocrisy of those he perceived as the Calvinist elect. Young Goodman Brown has suffered a great fall from innocence; his faith was too simple to begin with as at first he has only a "notion" of evil, but now he has become acquainted with it. Now, he believes only in the evil of man's heart.

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amarang9's profile pic

amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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At the start of the story, Brown is quite comfortable with his grasp on what is right and wrong. He is stable in his views on ethics and morality and he has a generally positive outlook on his and Faith's place in the world as morally responsible people. He believes that good is more powerful than evil. He has faith in God and in humanity. 

But after his dark trip into the forest, his certainties change. Having witnessed that everyone is capable of sin, Brown becomes completely disillusioned. In fact, Brown is incapable of recognizing that people are capable of good and evil. By the end of the story, Brown no longer believes that people are, by nature, more capable of good than evil. He is quite radical in his positions, moving from faithful optimist to negative pessimist. He might even suppose that evil is more powerful, at least in the mortal world. Brown became so gloomy and distrustful that he couldn't believe a good gesture from anyone (knowing that most people do sin). 

When the minister spoke from the pulpit, with power and fervid eloquence, and, with his hand on the open bible, of the sacred truths of our religion, and of saint-like lives and triumphant deaths, and of future bliss or misery unutterable, then did goodman Brown turn pale, dreading, lest the roof should thunder down upon the gray blasphemer and his hearers. 

The pun on "faith" is a appropriate. In the end, just as he couldn't look at the preacher the same way, he couldn't look at anyone the same, including his wife. And this is because he lost his faith in humanity. 

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