A Loss of Faith (Young Goodman Brown)

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A Loss of Faith

The short story “Young Goodman Brown” functions as an allegory of the Biblical fall of man, from which Nathaniel Hawthorne draws to illustrate what he sees as the inherent fallibility and hypocrisy in American religion. Hawthorne sets up a story of a man who is tempted by the devil and succumbs because of his curiosity and the weakness of his faith. Throughout the story Goodman struggles, not only with his Faith in Religion but also, his faith in people. The characters (Goodman Brown and Faith) draw a connection to the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 3. Like Adam and Eve, Goodman and Faith fall prey to the temptations presented by the Devil. However, where we know that Adam and Eve both succumbed to temptation; we are left to believe that at least one, if not both Goodman and Faith, chose to “resist the Wicked One.” This however, doesn’t mean that the devil didn’t win, in the end Goodman Brown returns to his village believing he has rejected the devil, but he has in fact embraced him. His relationships with both the good people of his town and with God have been spoiled forever.

Goodman Brown represents human beings confronted with temptation; he wishes to enter the dark forest of sin, so to speak, to satisfy his curiosity about the happenings there and perhaps even to take part in them. He is a “Good” man following in the footsteps of his forefathers, who he sees as symbols of honest and good Christian men, but as the devil tells Brown that he has been well acquainted with his family, his forefathers become symbols of people that embody the evil that surrounds Brown.

Brown’s wife, Faith, symbolizes true Christian faith and virtue, more directly she represents Brown’s religious faith and his faith in others. Brown’s marriage to Faith symbolizes that he clings to a faith in good in the world. The pink ribbon worn in Faith’s hair serves as an emblem of heavenly faith as well as her innocence. Later in the...
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