A Character Analysis of the Female Characters
Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, "Young Goodman Brown," was written in 1835. It "is known for being one of literature's most gripping portrayals of seventeenth-century Puritan society" (Napierkowski). Hawthorne's use of symbols throughout the story illustrates the Puritan beliefs, and his female characters are wonderful examples of some of his symbolism and represent the nineteenth-century women's stereotypes.
The main female character is Young Goodman Brown's wife, Faith. This is not only her name which gives the reader a glimpse into her character, but it also represents Young Goodman Brown's religious faith. When he leaves Faith behind to attend this meeting in the woods, he is leaving behind his religious faith as well.
Faith Brown is an example of typical stereotyping of women in the 1800's literature. She is described as sweet, pretty, and angelic with pink ribbons on her cap. She is expected to do as her husband tells her. He looks to her for his moral guidance and uses her as his reason for being late and to turn back from his journey. After this one night Young Mr. Brown intends to follow his wife to heaven by clinging to her skirts.
It is Faith that Brown leaves behind, presumably for one night, in order to keep his appointment with the Devil. Explaining to the old man why he is late Brown says, "Faith kept me back a while." She represents the force of good in the world. Thus, when Brown perceives that she too has been corrupted, he shouts "My Faith is gone" and rushes madly toward the witches's gathering (Napierkowski).
Faith appears to be naïve and trusting. When Brown hears her on the path from his hiding place in the woods, she seems to be being coerced by the others she is traveling with. They encourage her to continue on. Faith is submissive and wants to please the others even though she has doubts and seems sorrowful. Then he hears a scream which presumably is his wife's followed by voices and laughter from the others. His finding her gone with only her pink ribbon left behind, leaves him desperate and angry.
In the end, it is not clear whether or not Young Goodman Brown has actually had the experience the night before or if he has dreamed it all. It doesn't really matter because his doubts and loss of faith are the same either way. He doesn't know if his wife, Faith, has obeyed his command to resist or not. The next morning finds him a changed man. He is distrustful and distances himself from his wife and the others. Even though he has changed how he treats his wife, she stays with him till the day he dies. Her motivation to
be a dutiful wife as is expected continues up until his burial.
Faith Brown is not the only significant female character in "Young Goodman Brown." Another important female character is Goody Cloyse, Brown's spiritual advisor who taught him as a child. She's an older Christian woman who is admirable and virtuous in Brown's eyes. Brown, feeling guilty about what he is about to do, hides in the woods not only from his wife, but also from everyone except the first person he meets on the path. That includes Goody Cloyse. Having looked to her for moral guidance, he is reluctant to realize her purpose for being on the path in the woods so late in the evening.
Since Goody Cloyse is found in the story only after Brown has set out on his journey towards this meeting, and it isn't clear whether or not from that point on in the story if this is a dream or not, her motivation and character are not clear. If this is all a dream, she is a moral, well intentioned, responsible character. She is others-directed and has a positive attitude towards children since she teaches children proper religious beliefs. Even her name implies goodness. Her role as a woman is also typical of a woman of that time period since the religious upbringing of children was considered to be of utmost importance....