What made Young Goodman Brown change at the end of this story?
At the beginning of the story, Young Goodman Brown is presented as a loving husband. He refers to his wife as "a blessed angel on earth" and is sad to have to leave her. Young Goodman Brown is also presented, at the beginning of the story, as one struggling to resist the temptations of evil.
Indeed, he follows the devil into the dark woods, and the further he journeys into the woods, the further he moves away from his Christian faith. This idea is emphasized by the fact that his wife is named "Faith." However, Young Goodman Brown does try to resist the devil. He resolves repeatedly to turn back and return to his wife and "cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven."
At the end of the story, Young Goodman Brown is without hope altogether. He has seen, in the woods, too much evil and too much hypocrisy to ever be happy again. He has seen elders of the church, pious teachers of the catechism, and even his own wife among the devil's congregation. The devil has thus revealed to Young Goodman Brown the supposed truth that "Evil is the nature of mankind."
The devil affects this change in Young Goodman Brown, from hope to hopelessness and from faith to faithfulness, because he shows him that all those people he has "reverenced from youth," and "deemed...holier" than himself, are not holy at all, but sinful and corrupt. When Young Goodman Brown believed these people to be holy, he "shrank from [his] own sin, contrasting it with their lives of righteousness." Now that he no longer has that righteousness as a contrast, or an example, he becomes hopeless and miserable.
At the beginning of the story, Young Goodman Brown had some faith in the goodness of people, personified in the figure of his loving wife. By the end of the story, the devil has taken this faith from him. Thus, when Young Goodman Brown dies, he is "borne to his grave a hoary corpse" and, we are told, "his dying hour [is] gloom."
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