In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, what are obstacles which lead to complications in the plot and the resolution to the plot?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, the primary obstacle that leads to major complications in the plot come from Brown himself.

Brown is a man who believes himself to be upright and blameless in his Christian walk; but with intent, he enters the woods one evening, even though Puritans believed that the woods harbored the Devil, with "evil purpose." After this one night, Brown promises, he will return home and never leave again.

As Brown moves along he meets up with an old man—who looks a great deal like Brown; he is actually the Devil. As they walk and talk, Brown realizes that his ancestors were in league with the Devil for generations. Brown is surprised! And...

Brown initially considers his decision to go on his unholy errand an exceptional one, but he soon discovers that other presumably exemplary villagers are on the same path...

Brown is out in the woods, and so are others. Soon he sees prominent religious leaders in the woods as well—such as Goody Cloyse. They all know the old man and are traveling to a meeting place: it turns out, the location of a Black Mass. The Devil tells Brown that many people know and associate with him. We can assume that in a broad sense, these people sinthat is their association with the Devil. The Devil lists them—deacons, court members and selectmen—some who have shared "communion wine" with him. Even the governor is guilty.
As Brown follows the old man to the mass, he sees his wife Faith arrive. Faith is called by voices, and Brown calls out—
Faith! Faith!...look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one.
But in a brief moment, the area has cleared out: everyone is gone. Brown starts for home, but now he believes the townspeople and even Faith are servants of evil.
And, maddened with despair, so that he laughed loud and long, did Goodman Brown grasp his staff and set forth again, at such a rate that he seemed to fly along the forest path rather than to walk or run. 
His swift movements imply that he is a witch.
Returning to town, Brown will have nothing to do with anyone, shunning even his loving and beautiful new bride. Foolishly, Brown believes that the rest of the world is steeped in sin...though he has consorted with the Devil on his walk through the woods. His mistaken assumption that he is not attached to sin as the others are, is a fact he cannot reconcile within—it causes a chasm to develop and spread between him and the townspeople as well as Faith. 

Brown overcomes this obstacle by refusing to associate with the decent (but imperfect) people in the town; and he alienates himself from his wife. He becomes a grumpy, lonely old man. He is suspicious of all and is nothing that resembles the fine Christian man he believed he was: for he doesn't spread the Gospel, he does not care for the less fortunate, and he does not practice forgiveness. In essence, the tenets of his faith with which he rejects these people are the same things he forsakes himself.

In a religious context, all are sinners. The townspeople are no different than Brown, but he can only see their sin—not his own. He is particularly harsh even though he can even be certain that what he saw was not simply a dream.

The biggest obstacle is Brown's inability to see that no one is perfect—not even him. He lacks faith in his wife and fellowman, loses his own faith, and becomes an angry, suspicious and lonely old man. He is hypocritical for judging others and not himself.

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Young Goodman Brown

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