In "Young Goodman Brown," what important facts does the reader learn about Young Goodman Brown at the begininng of the story?
His personality at the beginning and what compels him to go into the forst.
This story reminds me of Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" and "The Scarlet Letter," which deal with the "mystery of sin" and hypocrisy of the Puritans.
In the exposition of "Young Goodman Brown," there is Hawthorne's subtle foreshadowing, perhaps with an ironic tone. The wife, in innocent pink ribbons, is named Faith. Much like a morality play in names and theme, a naive Goodman (he does remain good though at a price) Brown sets forth on a journey, but not before putting his head back to his young wife. Later, Brown sees his wife as a proselyte of the devil after wondering, "Where is Faith?" Clearly, he loses his innocent wife and his own faith in the goodness of the townspeople as he sees the hierarchy of the Church present in the dark ceremony.
More foreshadowing occurs with irony when Goodman thinks, "Poor little Fath!....She talks of dreams, too. Methought... there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight."
More irony is in the exposition when Goodman Brown, with "head being turned back" he beholds the older man seated, waiting for him. In the same position as when he kisses Faith, Goodman meets the devil. "Faith kept me back awhile..." Goodman explains his lateness to the man.
There is a mystery to Goodman's trip, the reader learns, just as Goodman will later learn the mystery of sin in the townspeople.
At the beginning of the story Young Goodman Brown is kissing his wife goodbye as he leaves the house for the night to go on a trip and he will not return till the next morning. He is going to the forest to meet with the devil. He is very curious about the dark side of life, but very confident. He tells the devil that he has changed his mind. The devil encourages him to continue. Goodman decides he can remain pure even in the face of evil. He feels guilt for leaving his beautiful wife. He is dressed in very modest clothing and we get the idea that he is the "perfect puritan." He says he will resist temptation so that he can go back into Salem with his head high and have no guilt. This changes toward the end of the story and you can read more about this character and others at the following link.