Faith in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s allegorical story “Young Goodman Brown” is set in Salem, Massachusetts during the late sixteen hundreds in a time of religious hysteria and only a few generations after the infamous witch trials. Although "Young Goodman Brown" is a fictional tale, it is based on the cynical environment of Salem during this time period. The short story is filled with many literary elements, leading you to question what did exactly happen to the main character at the conclusion. When analyzing a story like "Young Goodman Brown", one must recognize that the story is at whole symbolic. In the text, symbols are used to uncover the truth of the characters. The role of Faith as both a character and a spiritual element are crucial to both the story and the character of Young Goodman Brown.

The names of the characters Young Goodman Brown and his wife Faith are both symbolic. “Young" infers the title character is naive and new at life. Brown’s youth suggests that he is an uncorrupted and innocent young man. Moreover, "Goodman" suggests his self-righteousness thinking he is a good man. Furthermore, "Brown" indicates he is a commoner. Thus, the full name implies he is the average naive and self-righteous Puritan. Faith’s name in the story represents his need to cling to faith. She symbolizes everything that is good and Christian to Goodman Brown. Brown’s marriage to Faith is symbolic of how he clings to faith in good in the world.

The story begins with Young Goodman Brown departing from his wife. His pretty young wife Faith is immediately identified by the pink ribbons in her hair. “And Faith, as his wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street letting the wind play with the pink ribbons on her cap.” (Hawthorne 197)...

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...ssed though the use of setting, foreshadowing, and symbolism. William Graham Sumner once said “Men never cling to their dreams with such tenacity as at the moment when they are losing faith in them, and know it, but do not dare yet to confess it to themselves.” ( This statement holds many truths to the thoughts and actions of the young Goodman Brown in Hawthorne’s allegorical story. Brown was quick to go on his foreboding quest, knowing what his meeting with the devil may lead to, and only when threatened and scared attempted to turn back to hold on to both Faith physically and psychologically. Whether his journey into the forest was an illusion or not, Brown’s perception of faith in society have been dramatically altered, as he may have lost all faith in humanity.
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