Why is Brown surprised that the man he met knows his grandfather?

Expert Answers info

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write9,501 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

During Goodman Brown's journey into the forest to participate in the Black Mass, he comes across a man who resembles his father and the devil. The mysterious fellow traveler encourages Goodman Brown to follow him on the path into the woods, but Goodman hesitates. He then comments to the devil that his father and grandfather have never dared to travel into the forest with such evil intentions. Goodman goes on to mention that he comes from a long line of worthy, honest Christians and believes that he is the first man in his family to embark on the wicked journey.

The devil responds by telling Goodman Brown that he is well acquainted with his family. According to the devil, he helped Goodman's grandfather mercilessly lash a Quaker woman through the streets of Salem. The devil also says that he brought Goodman's father the "pitch-pine knot," which he used to burn an Indian village during King Phillip's War. The devil goes on to say,

They were my good friends, both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily after midnight. I would fain be friends with you, for their sake.

Goodman is astonished by this information because his grandfather and father were celebrated, respected Christians with immaculate reputations. Brown then says,

We are a people of prayer, and good works to boot, and abide no such wickedness.

Essentially, Goodman Brown is extremely naive and held his family members in high regard. Since his grandfather and father appeared to be righteous Christians, he could not fathom that they would engage in such wicked behavior or participate in the Black Mass. One of the themes explored throughout the story concerns humanity's collective wickedness, which does not exclude outwardly righteous individuals like Brown's grandfather and father.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial