What does Goodman Brown mean when he says, "Faith kept me back a while" in Hawthorne's story, Young Goodman Brown?
In order to have attained full membership, the Puritan church insisted not only that its congregation lead godly lives and display a comprehension of tenets of their Christian faith, but they also must demonstrate that they had experienced true evidence of the workings of God’s grace in their souls. This is why Young Goodman Brown sets out one night. When he tells the devil, "Faith kept me back a while" it is a statement pregnant with meaning because by the time he arrives at the meeting place, ironically, Faith is already there. But, the "Faith" that kept him back is his illusionary faith. Thus, the disillusionment in his Calvinistic beliefs begins shortly after Goodman meets the devil as the devil turns Brown'sboast of being from a race of honest men and good Chritians upon Goodman,
Well said, Goodman Brown! I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever one among the Puritans.
After Brown perceives that Goody Cloyse consorts with the devilhe is disturbed. Thomas E. Connolly, author of "Hawthorne's 'Young Goodman Brown': An Attack on Puritanic Calvinism" states that the reader should be aware of Hawthorne's criticism of Calvinism here as the narrator notes that Goodman's remark, "That old woman taught me my catechism" is followed by "and there was a world of meaning in this simple comment."
And, as the narrative progresses, Brown begins to recognize that his original conception about his Faith is wrong. For, Deacon Gookin and the "good old minister"who are also associated with the devil, effect Brown's recognition that his Calvinistic faith is diabolic, not divine. With allegorical symbolism, Hawthorne writes of the effect that this awakening has on Brown,
Young Goodman Brown caught hold of a tree for support, being ready to sink down on the ground, faint and overburdened with the heavy sickness of his heart....While he still gazed up to the deep arch of the firmament, though no wind was stirring, a cloud hurried across the zenith and hid the brightening stars."
Further, when he sees the pink ribbons of Faith wafting in the air, these ribbons symbolize Brown's initial illusion that his faith will lead him to heaven. As Goodman cries, "My faith is gone!" his faith no longer means what it once did. He hears the devil underscore the implications of the Calvinisitic predestination and the depravity of man as he states, "Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness...."
So, on his journey with the devil, Young Goodman Brown has not lost his faith; he has simply learned its terrible significance despite Faith's holding him back for a while. Connolly contends,
This story is Hawthorne's criticism of the teachings of Puritanic-Calvinism....the doctrine of the elect and damned is not a faith which carries man heavenward on its skirts, as Brown once believed, but, instead, condemns him to hell--bad and good alike indiscriminately--and for all intents and puposes so few escape as to make one man's chance of salvation almost disappear.
It is this epiphany to the meaning of his Puritanic-Calvinistic...
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