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Free Essays - Allegorical Meaning of Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

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Allegorical Meaning of Young Goodman Brown


In the short story "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorn, the author uses many of his characters to symbolize the deeper meaning of the narrative.  The allegorical meaning of Hawthorns tale is that of belief.  If one believes that he or she is inherently evil than whether or not they do evil is inconsequential since the belief will ultimately lead to misery.  Young Goodman Brown is going on a voyage or trip yet later in the story it becomes unclear as to whether this was reality, just a dream, or a figment of his imagination.  Hawthorn was a romanticist and this narrative provoked both strong feeling and emotions.  Although, I believe it is the reader who starts to have strong feelings about the main character and it is the emotions of Young Goodman Brown that ultimately bring him to his downfall.  It is his anxieties and paranoia that take over and control his emotions.  It is clearly emotions that triumphant Hawthorn's "Young Goodman Brown"

The story opens with Young Goodman Brown bidding his wife farewell.  Goodman claims this is a journey that he must attend to.  Interestingly, his wife Faith is portrayed as pure and good.  She is a loving wife concerned about her husband and his mission.  It is her pink ribbons that represent her young innocence.  From the beginning Goodman refers to his journey as having an "evil purpose". 

As Young Goodman Brown enters the woods and meets up with companion he explains that "Faith kept me back a while".  So was it literally that Faith his wife caused his delay or more figuratively that it was his faith in goodness that was really holding him back.  Hobbling along in the woods Young Goodman Brown sees his catechism teacher.  This is yet another obstacle that has underlying meaning.  She represents the teachings of Christianity and all that is good in the world.  Yet this did not stop our character from continuing on his evil voyage. 

In the latter part of the story, where Young Goodman Brown is at the circle of the devil with all the other sinners he calls out for Faith.  He then states, "My Faith is gone!...There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name."  This was the most significant turning point in the story because now one can see that he not only feels as though he lost his wife, he lost all that is good.

It is in the final part of the story that we as the reader question the story itself.  So, was it a dream a figment of his imagination?  I have come to understand that ultimately this question is not of much consequence.  I believe Hawthorn was trying to get the reader to feel the deeper emotions that this story incites. Essentially, the allegorical meaning is what the author would like one to question.  To really question what one believes to be true.        

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