What does the encounter with the strange man in the woods tell about the character of Young Goodman Brown? this is from a story by Hawthorne titled, "Young Goodman Brown".

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rshaffer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The presence of the stranger in "Young Goodman Brown" serves as a catalyst for Brown's initiation into adulthood.  When Brown first meets the stranger, there is a sense of familiarity between them.  This is evident when the stranger says, "You are late, Goodman Brown."  Although Brown is frightened by the stranger's appearance, the narrator tells us that the stranger was "not wholly unexpected."  To further indicate that the stranger's purpose is to entice Brown into the evils of adulthood, Hawthorne describes the stranger's staff as having "...the likeness of a great black snake...that...might almost be seen to twist and wriggle...like a living serpent."  This is an allusion to The Garden of Eden where the devil presented himself in the form of a snake to entice Eve into eating the forbidden fruit.  Through this encounter, Hawthorne shows the reader that this is not an easy transition.  At one point Brown yells that they have gone too far, yet he unconsciously keeps walking.  To further entice Brown, the stranger reveals that he is familiar with Brown's family, especially his grandfather.  In doing so, Hawthorne reveals the agony of crossing over into adulthood. He has Brown repeatedly screaming out the word "Faith." At this point, the reader is aware that Brown's strength to resist evil is overpowered by his weakness, indicating that his character is flawed sharing a commonality with all people. 

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since Brown makes the journey by himself in the darkness of night, this shows that he is curious and probably tempted by evil. Whether his encounter with the devil, the strange man in the woods, is real or imagined, it does leave Brown permanently affected. At the beginning of the story, he seems sure that he can choose between good and evil. After his encounter with the strange man, he seems very insecure and disillusioned. Brown sees evil everywhere, even in his wife, Faith. In fact, by the end of the story, he seems incapable of understanding that a person can possess both good and bad qualities and he suffers tremendously because he cannot reconcile the fact that both ideas are present in all people.

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Young Goodman Brown

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