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A serpent is known to be vexing, corrupt, and shady, much so like the devil. Evil comes in various forms, producing a pessimistic awareness of the world around you. Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of ‘Young Goodman Brown’, uses imagery to highlight the ways in which evil establishes itself in one’s life. In Hawthorne’s story, an audience can comprehend how quickly one can modify how they see things. The impact that the devil has on the characters and setting in this story creates a dystopian feeling for a reader and questions the reality of evil forces toward these characters. Audiences can infer that these corrupt encounters actively shape the way that Goodman Brown perceives events occurring in the future, as well as the people he knows. Through the use of imagery in the darkened forest, the symbolism of the staff, and descriptions of the devil itself, Hawthorne strongly suggests that the power of negative forces is capable of revising one’s outlook on life.

To start with, evil closely surrounds the settings of this story. Throughout Brown’s journey from town to the forest, he is greeted with the presence of darkness. The author demonstrates this with the use of imagery while describing where Brown is when he enters the forest. “He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind” (Hawthorne, 357). Hawthorne uses this description of Brown’s first impression of the forest to illustrate the first sense of evil in his path. Using the words ‘dreary’ and ‘gloomiest’, the author describes a dark scenario, where one would not use the word ‘dreary’ to describe something of happiness and joy. ‘Claustrophobic’ is how one may describe the forest after Hawthorne’s detailed mental image. “It was all as lonely as could be… the traveler knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude” (Hawthorne, 357). There are a couple of different tones that come from this quote. Firstly, the use of the word ‘lonely’ implies that the size of the forest makes him feel alone and small in this world. Also, it can be assumed that from the description of the trunks and branches, Brown is just surrounded by a massive forest and almost ‘trapped’ in the darkness. The forest is seen as a vile, unholy place in that Young Goodman Brown is wrapped up. With the scene set as wickedly evil, it is evident that the path Brown is on will deliver him to the devil.

Next, as the story’s antagonist, the devil plays a crucial role in delivering Goodman Brown to evil. While the scene is set in a daunting atmosphere, Brown encounters signs of the devil when passing through the forest. “His head being turned back, he passed a crook of the road, and, looking forward again, beheld the figure of a man, in grave and decent attire, seated at the foot of an old tree” (Hawthorne, 357). Hawthorne uses multiple techniques to create an accurate description of the scene. Firstly, the setting is of a bend in the trail, beside a grand tree. Here, the base of the imagery is shown, where something this sturdy, which can symbolize a strong force, is found where the path becomes twisted or not straightforward. A path that doesn’t quite fit a straight line can represent complexity, difficulty, and messiness. Hawthorne then examines the figure a little closer, describing it as something that appears put together, as well as having a quiet but heavy presence. Using the word ‘grave’, it is understandable how gloomy the character appeared. When one combines all of these uses of imagery, it can be concluded that the figure gives off a strong, dark, and complex presence that makes Brown feel hesitant.

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Another look at how the existence of evil affects Goodman Brown is the devil’s staff. After his encounter with the mysteriously dark figure, Brown is offered his staff. “But the only thing about him that could be fixed upon as remarkable was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake…seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent” (Hawthorne, 358). Hawthorne uses similes to create a wicked perception of the staff. By comparing it to a black snake, one can speculate the level of danger the staff comes with. The word ‘serpent’ carries a sense of distrust, betrayal, and vileness, which is how the staff is seemingly compared in this quote. It is evident that the staff serves as a symbol of the devil, as well as the dilemma of staying pure or joining the devil falls upon Brown.

In addition to the devil and its staff, Brown’s encounter with the devil creates a difficult decision of whether he can refuse the darker side. With all these pressures of evil around him, Brown is faced with difficulty when speaking with the devil itself. “Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness” (Hawthorne, 364). Hawthorne is now facing Brown with pressure directly from evil. The devil is persuading Brown to ‘bite the apple’, sort of speak. Just like in Adam and Eve, when the ‘serpent’, again representing dishonesty, convinces them that they should eat the apple to gain reward, going against God’s order to stay away from the tree. Just like how Adam and Eve bit the apple, Brown falls victim to the devil’s trap, where he chooses to walk with the devil and away from Faith, and ends up feeling agitated throughout his future. The downfall of Brown’s outlook on life is shown when he loses interest in things he once did, as well as disobeying prayer. “And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave a hoary corpse, …they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom” (Hawthorne, 366). This goes to show that the true powers of evil and the impact it has on one, such as Goodman Brown, are so immense that it alters the way one perceives the world around them. He let the devil’s actions control how he felt throughout his future.

Just like serpents and snakes, the wicked surroundings of Goodman Brown push him to the edge. From fighting his way through a gloomy forest to experiencing pressure from the devil, Brown is faced with the matter of falling down the hole the devil has dug or keeping his values where they stood before these encounters. After giving in to the devil’s games, Brown’s vision of the future is turned around. He lost interest in the people he once loved, as well as lost his religious side. Being bombarded with all these negative temptations, it is extremely difficult to stay true to oneself. Goodman Brown goes on to show how simple it is to lose oneself over wrongful persuasion. It is important to stay honest with oneself in order to keep perspective in line. Corruption can come in many different forms, so it is crucial to persevere in values that are held close.

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