Young Goodman Brown

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Goodman Brown’s Father Character Analysis

Goodman Brown’s father, who died before the story’s start. The devil tells Goodman that he and Goodman’s father were close friends, and describes helping his father set fire to an Indian village during King Philip’s war. Goodman Brown thinks he sees his father’s form in the smoke at the devil’s conversion ceremony urging him to worship the devil.

Goodman Brown’s Father Quotes in Young Goodman Brown

The Young Goodman Brown quotes below are all either spoken by Goodman Brown’s Father or refer to Goodman Brown’s Father. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Hypocrisy of Puritanism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Young Goodman Brown published in 2011.
Young Goodman Brown Quotes

“I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that's no trifle to say. I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem; and it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philip's war.”

Related Characters: The Devil (speaker), Goodman Brown’s Father, Goodman’s Grandfather
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the devil is successfully eroding all of Goodman Brown's scruples about continuing down the path to sin. A major obstacle to him accepting sin is his family lineage, which he believes to be made entirely of good Salem Puritans. The devil, by informing Goodman Brown of his own relationship with Goodman Brown's family and ancestors, manipulates Goodman Brown's weak sense of morality, which rests on considering how he would be seen by his family and community. Note that this tactic would never work if Goodman Brown's sense of morality involved personally evaluating individual situations for himself.

The devil's examples of his actions also show how Hawthorne depicts evil as something very human and pervasive—not necessarily something supernatural or black-and-white, as the Puritans want to believe. Religious persecution, war, and murder are often justified by religion, but that doesn't make them any less evil or "devilish."

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“"I marvel they never spoke of these matters; or, verily, I marvel not, seeing that the least rumor of the sort would have driven them from New England. We are a people of prayer, and good works to boot, and abide no such wickedness.”

Related Characters: Goodman Brown (speaker), The Devil, Goodman Brown’s Father, Goodman Brown’s Mother
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:
Goodman Brown here reveals a key problem with the repressive nature of Puritanism. Because someone's morality is understood in Puritan society as being tied to their outward appearance of goodness and purity, discussion of a person's failings or moral ambiguity is strictly taboo. Perhaps Goodman Brown would have been better able to understand his own sinful impulses if his family had discussed their experiences with him, but he has never heard these matters spoken of, and it distresses him. It only distresses him for a moment, though, since he immediately recognizes that the smallest rumor of the family's wickedness could have led to ostracism from their community, so it wouldn't have been worth the risk of bringing up the subject at all. This silencing of discussion in Puritan society directly leads to Goodman Brown's ineptitude at handling the situation in the woods, and at the end of the quotation we see Goodman Brown return to his self-delusion about the purity of his family ("[we] abide no such wickedness"), the kind of black-and-white logic that prevents him from coming to a nuanced understanding of sin.

He could have well-nigh sworn that the shape of his own dead father beckoned him to advance, looking downward from a smoke wreath, while a woman, with dim features of despair, threw out her hand to warn him back. Was it his mother?

Related Characters: Goodman Brown, Goodman Brown’s Father, Goodman Brown’s Mother
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

A consistent issue with Goodman Brown's faith (and, by proxy, Puritan faith in general) has been that his morals are given to him by those in his family and community, and thus morality seems to mean little more to him than preserving his reputation or family tradition. When Goodman Brown is at a pivotal moment in the ritual in the woods, figures that appear to be his parents give him conflicting instructions about what to do. Because of this, he is unable to make a choice at all. Goodman Brown no longer believes his family to be good and pure, but he is not able to repudiate them and make his own choice either, which means he is condemned to repeat their same mistakes and carry on the legacy of hypocritical Puritanism in his own family.

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Goodman Brown’s Father Character Timeline in Young Goodman Brown

The timeline below shows where the character Goodman Brown’s Father appears in Young Goodman Brown. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Young Goodman Brown
The Hypocrisy of Puritanism Theme Icon
Losing Faith and Innocence Theme Icon
Saints vs. Sinners Theme Icon
Family and Individual Choice Theme Icon
The man shocks Goodman Brown by replying that he was good friends with Goodman Brown’s father, grandfather, and other Puritans and Puritan leaders, and has enjoyed acts of cruelty and sacrilege... (full context)
The Hypocrisy of Puritanism Theme Icon
Losing Faith and Innocence Theme Icon
Nature and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Saints vs. Sinners Theme Icon
Family and Individual Choice Theme Icon
...as “my worship.” She observes that the devil taken on the appearance of Goodman Brown’s grandfather, and calls young Goodman Brown a “silly fellow.” She then complains that her broomstick was... (full context)
The Hypocrisy of Puritanism Theme Icon
Nature and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Saints vs. Sinners Theme Icon
Family and Individual Choice Theme Icon
...steps out of the forest. In the smoke he sees the shape of his dead father beckoning him forward and the shape of his dead mother warning him back, but he... (full context)