“Young Goodman Brown” Characters
The main characters in “Young Goodman Brown” are Young Goodman Brown, Faith, Goody Cloyse, Deacon Gookin, the minister, and the devil.
- Young Goodman Brown is a pious newlywed who reluctantly leaves his wife one night to meet with the devil.
- Faith is Brown’s wife, who may or may not have participated in the Black Mass that Brown witnessed.
- Goody Cloyse is Brown’s catechism teacher, whom Brown believed to be a devout Christian.
- Deacon Gookin and the minister are two church officials who display hypocrisy when they join the Black Mass.
- The devil is an evil figure who carries a staff with a serpent head.
Last Updated November 14, 2022.
Young Goodman Brown, who grows old in the final paragraph, is the protagonist of the story. He is a flat character but a dynamic one, completely changing his simple nature over the course of the narrative. His Puritan title “Goodman” and common surname mark him as an Everyman figure, and he has no particularly outstanding characteristics. At the beginning of the story he is a loving husband and a respectable member of the community, who believes that his father and grandfather were upstanding men and that Goody Cloyse, the minister, and Deacon Gookin are as God-fearing and respectable as they appear.
Goodman Brown’s strongest characteristic is his devotion to his wife, Faith. He leaves her for one night to fulfill a pact he has made with the devil, the nature of which is not clear. It does, however, give the reader a clear idea of Hawthorne’s view of human nature that his Puritan Everyman is the type of person who makes pacts with the devil. When he talks to the devil about his family and friends, he is swiftly disillusioned, but his essential nature only changes when he loses faith in Faith. At this point, he immediately becomes a maniac, the most frightening figure in a forest full of terrors, only to become calm just as quickly when he does not see her among the Satanic congregation.
The bulk of Brown’s life is covered in a single paragraph at the end of the story. The events in the forest, whether real or a dream, have left him permanently distrustful and misanthropic. His nature changes, and he becomes an embittered man, disgusted with humanity, including his wife and the rest of his family, for the remainder of his long life.
Faith is introduced as a loving wife, anxious for her husband to stay with her at the beginning of the narrative, angelic by nature, and entirely worthy of her name. When Goodman Brown returns from the forest, she runs joyfully out of the house to meet him and is so affectionate in her greeting that she almost violates the Puritan code of propriety by kissing him in the street. It is not clear whether Faith in fact took part in the Satanic ritual in the forest or if her husband dreamed the entire thing. In either case, Faith is a passive character apart from her demonstrations of affection for her husband, and Hawthorne carefully avoids any reference to her reactions when he continues to turn away from her as they grow old together.
The devil appears near the beginning of the story, when he keeps an appointment with Goodman Brown, the nature and origin of which are not clear, and then later, when he officiates at the ritual in the forest clearing. He is described as resembling Goodman Brown himself, his father, and his grandfather, and is neatly and plainly dressed, like a good Puritan.
The devil is depicted as behaving with a certain generosity and even compassion. When Goodman Brown protests that it would break the heart of his young wife if he were to continue along the forest path with the devil, the devil replies that he does not want Faith to come to any harm and immediately leaves Brown alone. Later, when he reveals to Faith and Brown the evil nature of mankind, his tone is mournful, as though he feels pity for them. The devil therefore cuts a nobler figure than any of the human hypocrites who worship him.
Goody Cloyse is a pious old woman who lives in Salem...
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and teaches children their catechism. In the forest, however, she is revealed as an acolyte of the devil and speaks of Goodman Brown and his family with contempt. At the end of the story, it is not clear whether her corruption is part of Brown’s dream or if it is real. However, once Brown sees her as a hypocrite and a Satanist, he cannot later regard her in any other way. The same is true of the other respectable Puritans, the minister and Deacon Gookin.
The minister of the church Goodman Brown attends in Salem is introduced as a pious old gentleman and a powerful preacher. However, when the devil hears him described as such, he bursts out laughing. The minister is later revealed to be an enthusiastic Satanist, who particularly enjoys subverting religious rituals in the service of the devil.
Deacon Gookin is the minister’s friend and companion, who closely resembles him. He expresses enthusiasm for the Satanic ritual in the forest and later officiates at it alongside the minister.