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Plot Summary of Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown” begins, like many other stories by Hawthorne, with an idyllic scene in a Puritan community—this time in Salem Massachusetts, the site of the infamous witch trials. “Young Goodman Brown” opens with the title character leaving his home and his beautiful and “angelic” wife of three months named Faith—a pretty woman wearing pink ribbons to go on a journey although it is not specified yet where it is he is heading. His wife urges him to stay overnight and leave in the morning as she is afraid and thinks she will be lonely but Goodman Brown is set upon leaving, even though he wonders if his wife’s bad dreams were alluding to the journey he was about to undertake.

Hawthorne's character, Young Goodman Brown sets out on his journey and soon finds himself on a dark and dreary road that seems to swallow him up as he progresses along his path. He remarks to himself that there must be a “devilish Indian behind every tree” and looks behind himself, saying, “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow,” which is one of the important quotes in terms of foreshadowing in “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This strange figure is obviously the man Goodman Brown was on his way to meet as the figure tells him he is late before the two move forward into the thick of the forest.

The narrator of “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne devotes a paragraph to describing Goodman’s traveling companion. He is of the same class as Goodman Brown, as evidenced by his clothing and the narrator suggests that they bear a resemblance to one another and could easily be mistaken as father and son. Interestingly, the man had “an indescribable air of one who knew the world, and who would not felt abashed at the governor’s table or in King William’s court” if that was where he ended up. Most importantly in terms of both foreshadowing and the argument that this is, in fact, the devil himself, is the fact that this man carries a staff which looked like a black snake and was made so that it almost looked like it twisted and moved itself like an actual serpent.