Young Goodman Brown portrays a common disaster a young Christian experiences when he/she allows him/her self to stray from the familiar paths prescribed by the Bible and other mature Christians. The journey of Goodman Brown parallels many who have attempted to walk the Christian path and somehow strayed into dangerous territory. The story is about a young man named Goodman Brown who goes on an errand of evil intent taken place in the darkness of a forest. Upon arriving, brown encounters another traveler who is revealed to be the devil. The devil employs cunning tactics that compel the young Christian to abandon his faith and returns to live out the rest of his life without hope and in despair. Being aware of some of the tactics the devil uses to deceive young believers would help others to stick to the familiar paths.
The story contains elements of some tactics the devil uses to deceive young, and sometimes even old, Christians. It does not help that the character in the story, Brown, is somewhat enticed by the devil’s suggestions or illusions (the text does not disclose whether or not the people that where encountered on the journey were the actually people themselves). Browns curiosity of evil is likened to any person’s sinful curiosities and each person must choose to either take the advice from others that some sinful behavior leads to destruction or there are some who find that they must experience sin for themselves. Two factors indicate that Brown is a fairly young Christian. First, his wife who represents his faith, has been married to him for a mere three months. Although others suggest that the three months stated represents three generations of Browns, one would not know for sure what the writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, had in mind (Colacurcio, 1987, p. 391). Second, the title of the story itself is aptly descriptive of Brown’s position in relation to his Christian faith. Throughout the story, the devil presents godly people that Brown knows, who have in fact taught him Christianity but this does not mean that brown is really a follower of Christ. Given there are many people who grow up in the church and understand the church doctrine; it is common for individuals who decide later in life that the Christian way is not the way for them. It should also be noted that at the end of the story, Brown continues to attend church and say prayers with his family but despises Christianity in his heart. Although this assumption becomes difficult when explaining how he rejects Christianity yet is still married to his wife Faith. Taking the assumption that Brown is one who has embraced Christianity as his own yet still young in the Christian faith, he is not yet grounded in the full reality of the trials of Christianity. Is there an expectation of what Christianity must look like? It seems to Brown, there is a sense of Christians being either purely good or purely evil. His initial understanding of his wife, Faith, is that she is all that is pure and innocent, represented by the pink ribbon that is fluttering in her hair. When brown begins with what he thinks faith should look like and it turns out not to look the way he expects, there are three ways he could have reacted; either he could deny the alterations to his faith and remain ignorant, his faith must change, or in his case he would lose it altogether. Brown gives a quite shallow response and it is quite mysterious why he did not consult another that may have helped him to clarify misunderstandings and questions. In fact, it is ironic that he distinguishes between right and wrong Christian behavior and yet judges other people while Brown has the perception that a good Christian would not keep such company that he finds himself associating with. It was easy for the devil to fill Brown’s mind with deception by simply creating an image for him to ponder...
References: Colacurcio, Michael J. (1987). Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tales James McIntosh (Ed.). New York, NY: Norton.
Person, Leland S. (2007). The Cambridge Introduction to Nathaniel Hawathorne. New York, NY: Cambridge.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Fully rev. ed. Kenneth L. Barker, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002. Print
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