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Young Goodman Brown - Nathaniel Hawthorne

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A Mysterious Forest

At sunset Young Goodman Brown stepped into the street of Salem village. But then he put his head back inside his house and kissed his young wife Faith. She put her pretty head outside the house. The wind played with the pink ribbons in her hair while she called her husband.

«Dearest love,» she said, «please leave in the morning and sleep in your own bed tonight. Please stay with me tonight, dear husband.»

«My love and my Faith,» answered young Goodman Brown, «tonight I must stay away from you. I must make this journey between now and sunrise.»

«I will wait for you to return,» said Faith, with her pink ribbons.

«Say your prayers, dear Faith, and go to bed early, then nothing will happen to you.»

The young man walked on and then looked back. He saw Faith's head with her pink ribbons. She was still looking at him.

«Poor little Faith!» he thought. «I should not leave her alone while I go on this journey. She often talks of dreams. When she spoke to me there was unhappiness in her face. Perhaps a dream told her what I am doing tonight! Oh, but it will kill her to think of it. She is an angel, and after tonight I will stay close to her forever.»

With this excellent resolution for the future, Goodman Brown felt better. He walked quickly toward his evil purpose. He took a dark, mysterious road in the forest with tall, dark trees all around him. It was very lonely and he did not know what was hidden behind the dark trees.

«There could be an Indian behind every tree,» said Goodman Brown to himself. He was afraid. He looked behind him and said, «What if the devil is here?»

On the road in front of him there was a man sitting under an old tree. He got up and said, «You are late, Goodman Brown.»

Surprised by his sudden appearance, he replied nervously, «I was with Faith.»

It was now very dark in the forest. The second traveler was about fifty years old and looked a lot like Goodman Brown. They looked like father and son. But, although the older man was simply dressed, he had a certain air of one who knew the world. He would be comfortable at the governor's table or at King William's court. But the only unusual thing about him was his staff. It was a strange staff. It looked like a living serpent. Of course, it was probably Goodman Brown's imagination because it was very dark in the forest.

«Come, Goodman Brown,» cried his fellow traveler. «You are walking too slowly. Take my staff if you are tired.»

«My friend,» said Goodman Brown, stopping, «I met you here because I promised. But now I want to return home because I am worried about this journey.»

«Really?» replied the older companion. «Let us walk on. If I can convince you while we walk, then you must not go back. And if I cannot convince you, then you can go back. We have just entered the forest.»

Goodman Brown started walking again. «My father never went to the forest on such a journey, and neither did his father before him. We are a family of honest men and good Christians. I will be the first Brown that ever took this path in the forest and had-»

«And had such friends. That's what you wanted to say,» said the older man. «I have known your family very well. I knew your grandfather and your father. I helped your grandfather when he whipped the Quaker woman in Salem. And I helped him to burn an Indian village. They were my good friends and we walked along this path many times and returned after midnight.»

«I am surprised that they never spoke about these things. But I can understand why. We are a people of prayer and work, and we do not tolerate evil.»

«Evil or not,» said the traveler with the staff, «I know many important people here in New England — religious men, government officials and the governor himself!»

«Really?» cried Goodman Brown. «I don't know the governor or government officials. But if I continue this journey, how can I meet the eye of that good old man, our minister at Salem village? His voice will make me tremble.»

Until now the older traveler had listened seriously, but he suddenly started laughing loudly. He laughed violently and his serpent-like staff seemed to move.

«Ha! ha! ha!» he shouted again and again. Then he said, «Well, go on, Goodman Brown, go on. But please don't kill me with laughing.»

«To end the discussion,» said Goodman Brown, angrily, «there is my wife Faith. It will break her dear little heart.»

«If that is the case,» answered the other, «then go home, Goodman Brown. I don't want anything bad to happen to Faith.» On the path in front of them they saw an old lady who had taught Goodman Brown catechism when he was a child. She was still his spiritual teacher, together with the minister and Deacon Gookin.

«How strange that Goody Cloyse is in the forest tonight,» said Goodman Brown. «With your permission, my friend, I will take another path through the woods and leave this Christian woman behind. I don't want to meet her. She may ask me where I am going.»

«Very well,» said the older traveler. «You go on through the woods and I will walk on the path.»

The young man turned into the woods but watched his companion who walked along the path. The old lady was walking along quickly for a woman of her age. The traveler touched her neck with his staff.

«The devil!» screamed the old lady.

«It's your old friend,» said the traveler.

«Ah, of course, it is you, your worship! Yes, it is really you and in the image of Goodman Brown's grandfather,» cried the old woman. «Well, I was ready for the meeting but I had no horse to ride on. My broomstick has disappeared. I think the witch Goody Cory stole it. So I decided to come on foot. If you give me your arm we will be there shortly.»

«I cannot give you my arm,» answered her friend, «but here is my staff.»

He threw it on the ground and Goodman Brown thought that the staff took the form of a serpent, but he wasn't sure. First he looked up and then he looked down, and he did not see Goody Cloyse or the serpent-like staff. All he saw was his fellow traveler who was waiting for him calmly.

«That old woman taught me catechism,» said young Goodman Brown. And there was a world of meaning in that simple comment.

They continued walking in the forest and talking. The older traveler broke the branch of a tree and used it as a walking staff. Suddenly Goodman Brown sat down under a tree and refused to continue.

«My friend,» he said, «I have decided that the horrible old woman can go to the devil if she wants. I always thought she wanted to go to heaven. That is not a reason to leave my dear Faith and follow her.»

The older traveler said calmly, «Sit here and rest. When you want to continue, here is my staff to help you.»

He threw his companion the staff and disappeared into the dark forest. Goodman Brown sat there for a few moments. He was proud of himself because he had a clean conscience and he could look Deacon Gookin straight in the eye. And that night he could sleep in Faith's arms, instead of spending the night in the forest. As he was thinking these pleasant thoughts, he heard the sound of horses along the path. He decided to hide in the forest.


A Terrifying Discovery

Goodman Brown did not recognize the men on the horses because it was too dark. However, he thought he heard the voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin.

The voice that sounded like the Deacon's said, «I can't miss tonight's meeting! There will be people of our community from Falmouth and others from Connecticut and Rhode Island. And there will be Indian men of magic who know a lot about devilry. There will also be a lovely young woman who will join our group.»

«Very well, Deacon Gookin!» replied the old minister. «Let us go quickly. We must not be late.»

The horses galloped through the forest. Goodman Brown was very surprised and his heart was heavy. He looked up at the sky to see if there was a heaven above him. He saw the sky and the bright stars.

«With heaven above and Faith below, I will resist the devil!» cried Goodman Brown.

While he looked up at the sky and prayed, he saw a black cloud directly above him. From the black cloud he heard the sound of confused voices. They sounded like the voices of his own townspeople. Then he heard the sad voice of a young woman.

«Faith!» shouted Goodman Brown, who was very worried. And the forest echoed «Faith! Faith!»

The cries of anger and terror filled the night. Then there were sounds of other voices, terrible screams and laughter. The black cloud passed over his head and something fell down slowly — it was a pink ribbon.

«My Faith is gone!» he cried. «Oh, there is no good in this world. This world belongs to the devil.»

Young Goodman Brown was desperate. He took his staff and started walking very quickly. The road became darker and more frightening. There were strange, terrible sounds everywhere.

«Ha! ha! ha!» cried Goodman Brown when the wind laughed at him. «You can't frighten me! Come witch, come wizard, come the devil himself — here comes Goodman Brown. He's not afraid of you!»

In all the mysterious forest the figure of Goodman Brown was the most frightening. He went forward courageously as he listened to a strange chorus of human voices.

Then suddenly he reached an opening in the forest. The opening looked like an altar. It was surrounded by burning trees that looked like candles. The red light of the fire was everywhere.

«What a strange group!» said Goodman Brown.

In this group there were ministers, church members of Salem village, pious ladies, important men of the government and young girls. Good old Deacon Gookin was there too. However, among these good people there were also thieves, criminals and bad people. They were all together.

«But where is Faith?» thought Goodman Brown nervously.

He heard a hymn. It was a slow, sad hymn about dark sins and evil. The chorus sang and a loud organ played. Everyone was singing to the devil. It was an image of horror!

Then suddenly a voice cried, «Bring in the converts!»

When he heard this Goodman Brown approached the group and he felt evil. He thought he saw his dead father calling him. Then he saw a sad woman who put out her hand to warn him. Was she his mother? Then the old minister and Deacon Gookin took his arm and brought him forward.

A thin woman with a veil on her face walked between Goody Cloyse, the pious catechism teacher, and Martha Carrier, an evil woman. Martha Carrier wanted to become the queen of hell. The converts stood there surrounded by the fire.

«Welcome, my children,» said the dark figure. «You have now found your true nature and your destiny. My children, look behind you!»

They turned around and saw the fire. There was a strange smile on every dark face.

«All the people you knew and respected are here. You thought they were better than you, but they are all here worshipping me,» said the dark figure. «Tonight you will know all their darkest secrets. You will know that respected men of the church have said evil words to young girls, that pious women have poisoned their husbands and that young men have killed their fathers to get their money. You will understand the mystery of sin and evil. And now, my children, look at each other.»

They all looked at each other. Suddenly Goodman Brown saw Faith and she saw her husband.

«Remember, evil is the nature of all people. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome again, my children.»

«Welcome,» repeated the devil worshippers.

Young Goodman Brown and Faith stood among the others. They seemed undecided. Did they want to go on? Goodman Brown looked at his wife and she looked at him.

«Faith! Faith!» cried Goodman Brown. «Look up to heaven and resist the devil.»

He did not know if Faith obeyed him. After he had spoken he found himself alone, with the sound of the wind in the forest. He was standing against a cold, humid rock. A branch of a tree that had been on fire was now cold and wet.

The next morning young Goodman Brown walked slowly in Salem village. He was a very confused man. He saw the good minister walking near the cemetery and preparing his sermon. Goodman Brown avoided the old man. Old Deacon Gookin was praying and Goodman Brown could hear his prayers through the open window.

«Who is he praying to?» thought Goodman Brown. Goody Cloyse, the pious old Christian, was giving religious instruction to a little girl. Goodman Brown pulled the little girl away. Near the church he saw Faith's head with the pretty pink ribbons. She was very happy to see her husband and almost kissed him in front of the whole village. But Goodman Brown looked at her severely and sadly, and walked on.

Did Goodman Brown fall asleep in the forest and only have a terrible dream about a witch meeting and the devil?

Perhaps, but it was a dream of evil omen for young Goodman Brown. After that strange night he became a sad, dark, almost desperate man.

On Sunday when the congregation sang a hymn, he could not listen to it. He could still hear the frightening hymn of the night in the forest. At night he often awoke and moved away from Faith. When the family prayed he looked at them angrily and turned away.

After a long life, Goodman Brown's body was carried to his grave followed by Faith, his children and grandchildren. There was a procession with many friends, but there were no hopeful words on his tombstone because his last hour was very sad and hopeless.


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