Symbolism in “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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„Young Goodman Brown”, a strory written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, has been popular among both readers and critics. The story is allegorical, which means that the characters and objects in the story represent abstract ideas. Hawthorne uses symbolism throughout the story and the symbols are not difficult to identify. He clearly wants them to be obvious to even the least attentive reader. Hawthorne uses the symbols to support his points while showing the moral aspects of his society, those symbols may also uncover the truth about the characters. The story is set in the village of Salem in the time of the witch trials, in which Hawthorne's great-great grandfather (John Hathorne) played a role as judge. It is said that „Hawthorne, for years plagued by guilt from his ancestor's role, vindicates his grandfather by featuring two fictional victims of the witch trials who really were witches and not merely innocent victims of the witch-hunt.” He wants to whiten his family history by presenting the hipocrisy of the society of that time. He shows that there was a lot of evil in the world and not only good. The story of Young Goodman Brown had been interpreted and discussed by many with the use of different approaches. However there is no doubt that in order to fully understand the text, and understand the symbolism as well as discover all the implied meanings, the reader has to do the close reading with the Mythological/Archetypal approach in mind.

Archetypal approach to literature is a kind of literary interpretation that considers literary works as expressions of repetative mythic patterns and structures, or of ‘timeless’ archetypes. This kind of criticism is less interested in the specific qualities of a given work than in those features of its narrative structure or symbolism that seem to connect it to ancient myths and religions. The main key concept in Archetypal criticism is the archetype, "a symbol, character, situation, or image that evokes a deep universal...
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