Research Paper/Final Draft
March 2, 2014
Symbolism and Religion in “Young Goodman Brown”
Hawthorne starts our setting off by placing Goodman Brown leaving for a journey, even when Faith begs him to stay. You can distinguish the irony is the story from the beginning, a newly wed that isn’t able to keep her husband by her side when that is when two people are usually wrapped up in each other. In this story Maher says, “This story overflows with symbolism, and there is intentionally not a great deal of subtlety in these symbols”. Vaillancourt points out, by the name Hawthorne gives him,” The word Goodman Brown when taken apart, is ‘Good-man’ and brings the thoughts of a moral, responsible person”. The names chosen in the story, such as Faith also contain a deeper meaning. The symbols Hawthorne presents in “Young Goodman Brown” point out the spiritual battles he must face in his life. Faith’s pink ribbons play a big part in Goodman Brown’s journey; he sees them in various places throughout the woods, and also calls out to Faith herself on many occasions. The color pink used in the story for Faiths’ ribbons, is meant to symbolize her confusion about her faith. They also symbolize Goodman Brown’s faith and his inability to see where his sole lies through everything he experiences. The ribbons for him are almost a calling card in a sense. They are a sign of every monumental challenge, and secret revealed to him throughout the woods. The ribbons make him question his faith, and he becomes unsure of everything he’s believed along with the people he’s known. He is also unsure of whether or not to trust his wife, for he does not know where her sole lies when it comes to religion. In a passage from the story, Hawthorne gives us a sense that Goodman Brown has given up on his faith and now knows his fate with the devil:
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. ‘My Faith is gone!’
cried he, after one stupefied moment. ‘There is no good on earth; and sin is but
a name. Come devil; for to thee is this world given.’ (96)
The old man Brown meets in the forest, is also a very powerful symbol in the story. He is described as looking quite similar to Brown himself. (Maher) Maher goes on to say, “Puritan theology emphasizes that the devil’s natural domain is here in the real world.” The old man, upon first meeting Brown is very inquisitive as to why he is late for their meeting. Goodman Brown answers his questions, by only telling him, “His Faith held him back awhile”. (Maher) The old man is said to carry a serpent staff, Goodman Brown describes the staff to us as “a black serpent snake that it might almost be seen to twist and wiggle”. Goodman Brown does not at first realize what the man symbolizes, until the old man tells him he has known many of his kin throughout time.
I have been as well aquainted with your family as with every a one among
the Puritans, and that’s no trifle to say.I helped your grandfather, the constable,
when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem;
and it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth,
to set fire to an indian village, in King Philip’s war. They were my good friends,
both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily
after midnight, I would with you for their sake. (92)
Hawthorne leads us to believe that Goodman Brown has a choice on his this journey, which he is able to hear out the devil and see the sins of others, and still return back to his normal life. The devil acts as if he is the good guy, like he is only showing him things he thinks he needs to be aware of. In that act, he displays a sense of remorse almost for Goodman Brown. Even when Goodman Brown wants to go back the old man urges him further into the woods. Maher describes to...
Cited: Christophersen, Bill. " 'Young Goodman Brown ' As Historical Allegory: A Lexical Link."
Studies In Short Fiction 23.2 (1986): 202. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
Maher, Jimmy. "Symbolism and Theme in "The Young Goodman Brown"" The Digital
Antiquarian. N.p.,n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.
Vaillancourt, L. "Good and Evil in Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne." Yahoo
Contributor Network. N.p., 16 June 2009. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.
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