While the earlier generations followed the doctrines implicitly, the newer generations of the nineteenth century started to see through the hypocrisy of the so called pious individuals who were the pillars of the society and started to doubt them. Hawthorne, who was brought up in Salem which still followed the Puritanical beliefs of the eighteenth century, shows the conflict and moral dilemma caused by the hypocrisy of the pious and powerful in his writings. A new historical analysis of the short story, ”Young Goodman Brown “ by Nathaniel Hawthorne throws light on the conflict caused in an individual by the hypocrisy of those whom he admires and shows how it causes him to lose his faith. Young Goodman Brown sets out from home one night to take part in a ceremony of witchcraft, leaving his wife Faith behind. On the way he meets a stranger who looks like him, and as they proceed through the woods, young Goodman Brown sees and hears many men and women who he had thought were righteous, going to the same witches Sabbath and being on friendly terms with the devil. At the end of his reluctant journey he sees his young wife Faith at the place of the ceremony. He tells her to resist the temptations offered by the devil by looking heavenwards, when he is awakened from his dream. He loses his faith and is never the same man again.
There is conflict in his mind when he sets out, taking leave of his wife Faith. When Faith asks him not to go, he does not heed her , but sets out on his mission. "What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand",(Hawthorne 2131) he thinks, showing the conflict in his mind. The conflict increases when he is walking with his companion through the forest. When his older companion offers him his serpentine staff, Goodman Brown comes to a full stop. He wants to turn back and go home to Faith now. He tells his companion ,"having kept covenant by meeting thee here, it is my purpose now to return whence I came. I have scruples touching the matter thou wot'st of". (Hawthorne2132) The scruples of Goodman Brown grow into full blown conflict in his mind.
The story is set in the early part of the eighteenth century, a few years after the notorious Salem Witch Trials of 1692, in which Goodman Brown's grandfather had taken an active part The stranger tells Goodman Brown, "I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem "(Hawthorne 2131 ).The witch trials themselves were the result of a changing society of the eighteenth century and the troubles at the frontiers. Nineteen men and women were executed and one eighty year old man was pressed to death by rocks during those trials. There was also trouble with the Indians during that time and young Goodman Brown's father fought against them. "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" (Hawthorne 2131) , says the stranger to the young man. There is a terrible conflict in Goodman Brown's mind about the moral correctness of the actions of his forebears "The fiend in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man" (Hawthorne 2135)
The hypocrisy of the so called righteous individuals of the society is laid bare by the walking companion of Goodman Brown. Brown sees the pious old woman Goody Cloyse going to the meeting. Goody Cloyse had taught him catechism, and the hypocrisy of such a holy woman is brought out in the story. The Puritans had very strong opinions of good and evil