Goodman Brown's "Experience"

Essay by banditboy1560College, UndergraduateA+, May 2006

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Goodman Brown emerges from the forest a ruined man. It should not escape attention that Goodman Brown's wife, a lighthearted naive woman, bears the name of Faith. Faith is not an unusual woman's name, but it is significant in this story that she is presented as a very young bride with pink ribbons in her hair. This to me is almost like a child. Her pink ribbons symbolize her youth and innocence and Faith in turn symbolizes her husband's childlike spirituality at the start of the story. We find Faith characterized by childlike confidence and purity, contrasted with the man with the snakelike staff, who represents the devil. Faith does not attempt to dissuade her husband out of his intentions through reason to see this man. She simply asks him not to go into the forest on his mysterious errand. He knows that his journey is unwanted, for he feels guilty at leaving Faith.

The journey away from home and the community, from conscious everyday life, to the wilderness where the hidden self satisfies, or is forced to realize, its subconscious fears. Goodman Brown may subconsciously feel that the exploration of this forest may be a sin. It is easier to follow the accepted path of Faith away from the forest into the Light. Instead Goodman Brown enters the forest and experiences a wild dream that shows reality. He is in no way prepared for what he finds, namely the sinful natures not only of himself but of his father, grandfather, church, and most terrifyingly of all, his wife. He was unprepared to accept the visions he would receive there and has been changed for the worse. He was supposed to learn that everyone is human, and should be treated with compassion; instead he learned that everyone is a sinner.