What is the theme of "Young Goodman Brown"?
Early in the story, the protagonist, a young man called Goodman Brown by his Puritan community at the end of the seventeenth century, leaves his home to go into the woods on some evil errand. We never learn precisely what that was, but his intention to do something he isn't supposed to be doing is made clear. For the Puritans, the forest was a dangerous place, where potential evil lurked behind every dark tree. Brown leaves behind his wife, Faith, who seems to be symbolic of the Christian person's faith in God: one's commitment to try to live by God's laws and to honor God in all he does. Faith tries to keep her husband home, telling him that she is fearful for him, but he does not listen and goes anyway. He thinks to himself,
Well; she's a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.
However, this is not the way one's faith is supposed to work. It entails a commitment that one is supposed to at least try to uphold, not one that a person can simply drop when it is inconvenient and pick up again when one feels like it. Goodman Brown's intent to sin is premeditated and purposeful, and he vows to be good, just starting tomorrow. However, this "tomorrow" never comes: he loses his Faith (and his faith) in the forest and lives the rest of his life shrinking from her, miserable and suspicious of others. Thus, we see that faith requires a true commitment, a real effort, and should not be affected by convenience.
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