Allegory in Young Goodman Brown

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Young Goodman Brown" is an excellent example of an allegory. Allegories use events, characters or symbolism as a bizarre or abstract representation of ideas in the story, and throughout "Young Goodman Brown", Hawthorne uses a heavy amount of symbolism, as well as his characters and the events of the story line to develop a religious allegory. A large symbolic role is played by protagonist Goodman Brown's wife, Faith. Also, the main event in the short story, Brown's journey into the forest, holds several major symbolic roles such as the traveler's staff, and the thick mass of black clouds. This essay will be exploring how Hawthorne used symbolism to achieve an allegory within his short story. Although she is not physically seen in the story all that often, Brown's wife Faith is repeatedly brought into focus throughout the story. Like her name signifies, Faith is described as an honest and innocent Puritan woman, "Faith, as the wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap while she called to Goodman Brown." (Hawthorne 1.) The pink ribbons in this quote can also represent the youth and innocence Faith seems to have. Brown's wife also symbolizes his own child-like faith; this is shown during the main event in the story- the journey through the heathen's forest. "But something fluttered lightly down through the air, and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon." (Hawthorne 6) Yet again, the pink ribbons are mentioned. This time, the falling of the ribbons from the dark clouds symbolizes Brown's loss of Faith, both in his wife and in humankind, as he hears his wife's voice draw close to evil. ""My Faith is gone!" Cleary 3

cried he, after one stupefied moment." (Hawthorne 6) Shows how Brown dreadfully realizes at once the significance of the pink ribbons in this moment. Within the forest, Brown meets with his companion, the elderly man with the serpent-like staff in his grasp, which represents the devil. At first, the elderly man offers Brown the staff, which he claims to have "the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent." (Hawthorne 2) The story directly supports this in the quote "The traveler put fourth his staff and touched her withered neck with what seemed the serpent's tail. "The Devil!" screamed the pious old lady." (Hawthorne 3) The old Puritan woman is walking through the heathen forest in prayer, and clearly acknowledges the snake staff to be that of the devil. Not only could the serpent-like staff represent the devil itself, which is also conveyed as a serpent in the Bible, but it can also convey the sly, snake-like personality of the elderly traveler, who knows just what giving the staff to Brown would do to him. In Bible, the serpent in the Garden of Eden encourages Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil". (Genesis 3:4-5) The sly character of Brown's companion resembles the sly character of the devil in the story of Adam and Eve in relation to the fall of Man. Once Adam ate of the Tree of Knowledge, sin and transgression of the law came unto Man. Likewise, the traveler knew that if Brown walked with his staff, he would no longer be blind to see the sin among his ‘Puritan' family and friends. Cleary 4

Another significant part of the story which also occurs in Brown's journey throughout the forest; the traveler leaves his staff with Brown and vanishes from sight. Brown sat there alone, knowing very well of the evil he was surrounded by in the heathen's forest. ""With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!" cried Goodman Brown." (Hawthorne...
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