Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

The Devil from “Young Goodman Brown” Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Character Analysis of: The Devil Sometimes there is a feeling that reeks of “no”, because what is about to be done is immoral, but there is an even larger, overpowering feeling that says “yes”. This, in the minds of many can be interpreted as the devil working his way into our in our daily lives. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”, the devil does just that. The devil is not, in fact, the main character but has the most impact on Goodman Brown. The devil has worked his way into many of the puritan’s lives, leaving them with horrid secrets to bear.

But, the devil worked his way into Goodman Brown’s soul, which leaves him spiritually dead before he actually dies. The devil is a part of mans everyday life whether it is liked or not. In “Young Goodman Brown”, Hawthorne makes this clear by using different characteristics, actions, symbolisms, and the relationship that the Puritans have with the devil. The devil is a very sly but wise character; he will try to find ways to make a man sin without, man, necessarily knowing about it. The devil has many different personas, but to Goodman Brown he looks like a normal man from the village.

This is an example of a wise decision, because looking like a “normal” man from Salem makes him seem more trustworthy and more attractive to Goodman Brown. The devil makes several wise decisions that put himself ahead of man. The most important and only goal that the devil has is to get Goodman Brown so far lost into sin, “the forest”, that he can no longer find his way out, or “his faith”. The devil is trying to get Goodman Brown away from the holy Puritan lifestyle, tempting him to leave the safety of his home and head to the uncertainty of the forest.

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In the mid 1800’s the Puritans thought of the forest as being the “devil’s domain”, or the “devils breeding ground. ” They associated the forest with Native Americans, which in that time the Puritans thought that if you didn’t believe in “the God”, then you were of the devil. The devil is consistently referred to, in the text, as “his fellow-traveler”, this could be symbolic for the fact that they both are traveling to the same place, or that they have sin in their lives and were headed in the same direction.

The devil is never far from his staff, nor is he without knowing its location. His staff symbolizes the snake from the Garden of Eden, and the sin in life. He can get where he needs to be very quickly, this and the fact that Goody Cloyse’s broomstick flies leads me to think that witchcraft and the supernatural play a big part in the lives of these characters. Throughout the story the devil does not change his view on life, the way he acts, or the way he treats others. These characteristics make him a flat character.

Hawthorne hints that the devil could be Goodman Browns father; this creates a link between these two main characters. This could mean that the devil and Goodman Brown actually are related or that the devil is actually Goodman Brown’s internal opposing force, almost as if he had multiple personalities. The devil tells Goodman Brown that he has, “…been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans…” this means that everyone in the Puritan world has met with the devil himself.

This may also mean that all of the Puritans have a secret sin that they have to bear for the rest of their lives. The devil found his way into Goodman Brown’s soul and vanquished faith. The rest of Goodman Browns life was lived with excruciating pain, not physical pain but emotional pain. He was able to see what everyone was hiding behind their own personal mask. Goodman Brown lived the rest of his life not with the devil on his right shoulder but with the devil as this conscious.

The Devil from “Young Goodman Brown” Nathaniel Hawthorne essay

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