Evil. Morally reprehensible acts according to Webster’s Dictionary. Evil. It is a characteristic that is endowed only to man here on Earth, for only man is intelligent enough to make decisions and know of their consequences. This, however, is where a question lays; why does man commit evil if he knows of its consequences? Many author’s works are bound by similarities of the same wrestling with this question.
According to Mark Twain’s depiction of evil through the protagonist named story of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn it appears to be a conscious decision made he who commits the act. When Huck debates whether or not to turn in Jim it is shown that Huck makes the choice to do, what he felt, was evil and not turn him in. Even though Huck knew his choice to be the one of evil he simply shrugged it off with “I’ll just go to hell then” and never gave it anther thought. This is an approach to evil seen more often today than in the milieu of the story, the pre-Civil War south.
However in Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown evil is dealt with in the manner of Seventeenth Century Salem, Massachusetts (by any standard a much more restrictive society the mid-1800’s of Twain, let alone today). The same conscious decision is made by Goodman Brown, and both Brown and Huck seem to be compelled by the lures of the evil. Huck would not abandon Jim and Goodman Brown felt compelled to take the walk in the forest. Both are disillusioned to the promises of faith and church as well (though in Hawthorne’s story this abandonment is not until after evil is welcomed by Brown).
Dealings with evil and its effects of those who are exposed to it in literature tend to be a coming to a realization about something, if not about the evil itself. An aspect or the whole of the society that the protagonist operates with (not nessicarily within like with Huck Finn) tends to be broken down for the reader in a manner that shows where the evils lie. This leads both Huck and Brown to seclude themselves from the society and its evils in the end; Huck heading for the territories and Brown becoming anti-social and inward.