What's in a Name

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Important Symbolism in Young Goodman Brown
What’s in a name? Parents often put a great deal of thought into picking out a name for their children in hopes that others view it as a reflection of their uniqueness and a representation of their future aspirations. Authors also put a great deal of thought into their characters’ names and supporting objects to help the reader understand the meaning of their writings. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses duplicity in the characters of Young Goodman Brown and Faith; and also in the setting of the forest to reinforce the coming of age that is taking in place in Young Goodman Brown.

Starting with the titles namesake, Young Goodman Brown, we can break it down to find Hawthorne’s purpose for picking this particular name. It is easy to discern that Brown is indeed young. Several times throughout the text he is referred to as just the young man. We also see that he still has a childish fear of the forest. “There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree, said Goodman Brown to himself; and he glanced fearfully behind him…(Hawthorne 624).” The constant description of Brown being young leads the reader to believe that he is also still a bit naïve and has not yet come of age. It can also be said that “Even though every gentleman during the time in which this story is set was addressed as “Goodman,” Hawthorne intentionally uses the name to reiterate Goodman Brown’s pure intentions (Haddock 2).” In the beginning of the story, it is not known what the errand is that Brown has to do. Since he is leaving his wife of only three moths and he states that “no harm will come to thee (Hawthorne 624),” it seems as though it is important but harmless. However, digging even deeper into the term “Goodman”, it is said that “sources in Scottish folklore and Colonial America… reveal that Satan was sometimes called Goodman or the Goodman (Apseloff 103.)” This means that Young Goodman Brown himself has the devil in him. The only description...
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