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Young Goodman Brown

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The story begins at sunset in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts, with young Goodman Brown leaving his home and Faith, his wife of three months, to meet with a mysterious figure deep in the forest. As he and this mysterious figure meet and proceed further into the dark forest, it is broadly hinted that Goodman Brown's traveling companion is, in fact, the Devil, and that the purpose of their journey is to join in an unspecified but obviously unholy ritual. Goodman Brown is wavering and expresses reluctance, yet they continue on. As their journey continues Brown discovers others also proceeding to the meeting, many of them his townsfolk whom he had considered exemplary Christians, including his minister and deacon and the woman who taught him his catechism. He is astonished and disheartened and determines, once again, to turn back. But then he hears his wife's voice and realizes that she is one of the ones who are to be initiated at the meeting. Recognizing that he has lost his Faith (in both senses), he now resolves to carry out his original intention and enthusiastically joins the procession.

At the ceremony, carried out at a flame-lit, crude rocky altar in a clearing deep in the forest, the new converts are called to come forth. He and Faith approach the altar and, as they are about to be anointed in blood to seal their alliance with wickedness, he cries out to Faith to look to heaven and resist. In the next instant he finds himself standing alone in the forest, next to the cold, wet rock.

Arriving back in Salem the next morning, Goodman Brown is uncertain whether his experience was real or only a dream, but he is nevertheless deeply shaken. His view of his neighbors is distorted by his memories of that night. He lives out his days an embittered and suspicious cynical man, wary of everyone around him, including his wife Faith. The story concludes with this dismal statement:



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