In "Young Goodman Brown", if Young Goodman Brown, as the pious Puritan he is, knows he is setting out on an evil errand, why does he go?This is the only question I have that I can't seem to find an...

In "Young Goodman Brown", if Young Goodman Brown, as the pious Puritan he is, knows he is setting out on an evil errand, why does he go?

This is the only question I have that I can't seem to find an acceptable answer for. I can't justify it being a simple thrill seeking adventure. There is nothing else in his character that supports the thrill seeking type. Amongst all the critical articles I've read, there isn't an answer to this simple question. Unless of course, he is not what he seems and does really want to embrace temptation and evil. Any thoughts or interpretations are appreciated.

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This is a really fascinating question and one which has troubled me as well. You are right in identifying that there is no real "reason" established for Young Goodman Brown deciding to go into the woods and meet with the Devil. The only reason that I can come up with is that this is Young Goodman Brown's last frolic with evil before settling down for the rest of his life as a good Puritan. Note what he says to himself as he leaves Faith who is reluctant to let her husband of three months go off for his mysterious quest:

"Poor little Faith!" though he, for his heart smote him. "What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought as she spoke there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done to-night. But no, no; 't would kill her to think it. Well, she's a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven."

This seems to support my conclusion that this is one last fling with evil before he determines to "cling to the skirts" of Faith (clearly an allegorical character representing Christian faith) for the rest of his life. Having made this decision, the text then tells us that he felt "justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose." Thinking of the future good he will do seems to make him happier about the immediate evil he is planning.

melissacooker's profile pic

melissacooker | College Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

What do you think about this idea? As we know, once we read the story, that he has an unusually high opinion of himself. In fact he is so sure of his purity that maybe he feels there would be no immediate threat to his faith. He could be a voyeur to the sins of others without personally succumbing to temptation.

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