In "Young Goodman Brown", what means does the devil use to persuade Brown to continue his journey to the devil baptism?

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karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," the titular character embarks upon a journey that is apparently required of him. After he tells his wife, Faith, goodbye, he meets a man in the forest who represents the devil. As they walk, the man tells Young Goodman Brown about the history of the town and all of the sin at its core. Eventually, the protagonist wants to turn back, citing his wife as his main concern:

“Well, then, to end the matter at once,” said Goodman Brown, considerably nettled, “there is my wife, Faith. It would break her dear little heart; and I'd rather break my own!”

“Nay, if that be the case,” answered the other, “e'en go thy ways, Goodman Brown. I would not, for twenty old women like the one hobbling before us, that Faith should come to any harm.” (paragraphs 24–25)

The devil reassures him that Faith will not be harmed, so Brown should not worry about "break[ing] her dear little heart." From this point, Goodman Brown sees some of the religious officials of his town, and they are apparently friendly with the devil. This is shocking to Brown. Again, Brown decides he doesn't want to go any further into the woods. The devil asks him to sit down and think about it for a moment, and he throws Brown his serpentine staff. Eventually, Brown becomes aware of the ceremony that is taking place in the woods. Once he realizes Faith is part of the ceremony, he lets go of his inhibitions and declares that his "Faith is gone!" (paragraph 50). Brown begins to grow mad and more like the devil himself. He is described as the most "frightful" being in the forest (paragraph 53). When he returns back to town, he cannot live a normal life anymore after what he has seen and dies a miserable man, though everyone else in the town is able to carry on with their lives as usual.

cmcqueeney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The devil uses several tactics to persuade Young Goodman Brown to continue on the journey towards the baptism. First, he makes himself amenable to Brown by claiming he knows many of his relatives. Young Goodman Brown doesn't quite believe the devil and claims that for his wife Faith he must go back, but immediately they come upon Goody Cloyse on the path who is the first in a series of pious people that Brown sees along this path to the baptism. Also at this point, the devil gives Young Goodman Brown his staff which, as the story suggests, has supernatural evil powers itself.

The devil also engages in a lively and reasoned discussion with Young Goodman Brown debating the evil of the situation. Brown becomes so interested in the conversation that he doesn't even realize he is continuing deeper into the forest. The final straw is when Brown hears his wife from the cloud above and sees her pink ribbons fall. He believes his wife is given over to Satan, so he looses his own 'faith' and tears through the forest directly into the baptism. Once their, he is drawn forward by members of the 'congregation' gathered for Brown's baptism. Young Goodman Brown seems to make one final appeal to Faith and his faith at the evil altar, but it's too late. Satan's destruction of Brown's life is complete, and becomes evident when Brown returns to town and lives the rest of his life in despair and gloom.

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Young Goodman Brown

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