When do the setting the conflicts and complications, as well as the moment of climax, take place in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, the setting of the conflicts and complications—as well as the moment of the climax—takes place in the forest. 

Brown, newly married, plans a trip into the woods, despite Faith's appeal that he stay home. Married only a short time, and in light of his wife's concerns, he promises that when he returns, he will not go again. It is interesting to note that he does not speak of the errand that takes him into the forest. It is inferred that he is there on some dark business. And it is also unusual in that the Puritans believed that the forest was the devil's realm: to go there meant placing oneself in the path of danger—at the risk of losing one's eternal soul.

...the Puritans did regard the forest as a kind of "hell," in that they identified it as the haunt of the devil...In addition, the Puritans believed...that witches held their rites in the forest.

With this in mind, it is hard to imagine what would bring Brown into the forest in the first place. However, when he arrives, he meets an old man with a startling resemblance (at first) to Brown. The old man is expecting him:

“You are late, Goodman Brown,” said he. “The clock of the Old South was striking as I came through Boston, and that is full fifteen minutes agone.”

Note Brown's double entendre here, in response to the old man:

Faith kept me back a while...

Does he mean his wife, or allegorically, his religious faith?

In his dealings with the devil in disguise, we can see Brown's internal struggle with his own belief system, which is shaken by what he perceives as a falling from grace by not only his peers (and leaders of the church, at that), but also by his wife. 

The most overriding conflicts are established in the forest, when Brown learns not only that his own family had a relationship with the devil, but so too do the Puritan leaders of his town. (These conflicts are man vs. man and man vs. society.) The devil reports:

The deacons of many a church have drunk the communion wine with me; the selectmen of divers towns make me their chairman; and a majority of the Great and General Court are firm supporters of my interest. The governor and I, too. 

Shocked, Brown continues his journey; he sees Goody Cloyse:
 ...[the] very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser...
 As he moves on, he hears the voices of his minister and Deacon Gookin. Complications arise too: how can he follow this leaders who serve the devil? In despair, he cries:
With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!
It would seem that he will triumph as he joins others at the meeting place. As Faith is called forward for unholy baptism, Brown calls out to her to resist. This, then, is the climax of the story: Brown believes his wife is ready to enter into a covenant with the devil, even as he is also brought to face the evil one. Then everyone disappears! While there may have been a Black Mass in the forest, the unrealiable events that take place indicate that it might have been a dream. 
Brown's mistake is believing that people are not all sinful—which is not biblical. Brown's disappointment in others (for their sinfulness—inferred by the devil) causes him to throw away relationships with everyone—even Faith—living an isolated life and dying alone. In fact, he does lose his "Faith."
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Young Goodman Brown

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