‘Young Goodman Brown’ focuses on the time of the Salem witch trials. The symbol that is most evident is when Goodman Brown wants to enter into the dark forest and meets a man of darkness who bears a staff with a serpent head. This is symbolic to Adam being lured by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. This brings forth the representation of moral guilt by faith being questioned by Goodwin Brown. The same curiosity that drove Adam drove Goodwin Brown as well. The same allure of attraction, persuading, and the wanting to know brought Goodwin into the wood.
But, unlike Adam, Goodwin loses faith after his fall and ends up dying very unhappy. And of course, Adam still believes in his faith and presses on despite his giving in to temptation. “They carved no verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom (Hawthorne, 1937)”. Another of Goodwin’s realizations is that no one is impervious to falling victim to darkness. It is ironic that even in modern times it is assumed that those in a higher societal standing would not succumb to ‘fowl temptations’ of the lower class.
Then again, each class is then split and divided into different cliques that each formulate and bare their own opinion. While one act is seen as a blessing, yet another clique may see the same act as sinful. But both cliques will see the bad side or the morally bad side. Each clique will more than likely see the bad or morally bad in different forms of darkness, yet darkness just the same. The symbolism of what is real is questionable even concerning whether or not Goodwin Brown is simply dreaming the entire events.
Even Goodwin and his observations of fabrications and delusions is something that is done by people every day. Passing judgment and assuming evil is seen even in modern society. Yet today, we seem to recognize it more so under the category of vanity and jealousy. Or, we simply judge them by their simple appearance or societal standing. A great leap of faith is the final symbol. The attendance of the witches Sabbath in the forest is a test of faith to Goodwin Brown. Even though he hides behind trees along the way, he eventually ends up in the same place as everyone else.
Like most leaps of faith, his act makes him question his own presence when his wife comes forth as a member. Goodwin then turns back to God, his safety zone and tries to bring his new bride back to a sense of God. The realization that others that are near and dear to him may be performing trickery and witchcraft behind his back then sends him into a spiral of despair that continually looms over him until his death. Today, a leap of faith can be simple like buying a lottery ticket, or more brazen like bungee jumping.
It is safe to assume that Goodwin would have been more likely to join in on the Sabbath in a sole leap of faith had his wife not been there, like bungee jumping. But, when you play the lottery and lose, you usually envy the winner, even if only for a split second. You then question whether or not your leap of faith to play was worth the effort, and whether or not you should do it again.
References: Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1937). Young Goodwin Brown. New York: Random House Inc.