2. But, irreverently consorting with these grave, reputable, and pious people, these elders of the church, these chaste dames and dewy virgins, there were men of dissolute lives and women of spotted fame, wretches given over to all mean and filthy vice, and suspected even of horrid crimes. It was strange to see that the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the saints.
In this passage, which appears halfway through the story, Goodman Brown sees the ceremony and the dark side of Salem Village. The transgression of social boundaries is one of the most confusing and upsetting aspects of the ceremony. The Puritans had made a society that was very much based on morality and religion, in which status came from having a high standing in the church and a high moral reputation among other townspeople. When Goodman Brown tells the devil at the beginning of the story that he is proud of his father and grandfather’s high morals and religious convictions, he is describing how the society in which he lives values these traits above all others. When Goodman Brown sees the mingling of these two different types of people at the ceremony, he is horrified: the ceremony reveals the breakdown of the social order, which he believed was ironclad. Hawthorne is pointing out the hypocrisy of a society that prides itself on its moral standing and makes outcasts of people who do not live up to its standards.