Free Essay: Formalistic Approach to Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

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Formalistic Approach to Young Goodman Brown To understand Young Goodman Brown fully the reader must analyze the story using the formalistic approach. In class we described the formalistic approach as using allegory, historical background, allusion, and symbolism to interpret a work. When using these methods of interpretation, the story became clearer to me because I understood some of the historical background that the story was based on, as well as what some of the symbols meant, that I had previously been unaware. “In allegory (a narrative containing a meaning beneath the surface one), there is usually a one-to-one relationship; that is one idea or object in the narrative stands for only one idea or object allegorically”(p.59). In Young Goodman Brown the allegory lies in the main character’s desire to walk down the evil path for a little while just to see what it is like, then come back to the good life. He plans to do this by walking with the man in the forest and then coming back to Faith, his wife, who personifies his faith. The tricky part about encountering evil is that one must veer from faith, again this is allegorical to his wife and his having to leave her that one night. The historical background to this story helps to clarify why this story is significant and why some things happen during the tale. The Puritans believe in Predestination. I learned in American history that Predestination was the belief that certain people were destined to go to heaven while the others were destined for a place much less comfortable. The basis for whom went was up to God and it didn’t reflect on how righteous the person appeared to be on the outside. This becomes important in Young Goodman Brown because when he hears of and sees people that he believed were good people following the devil, he begins to doubt that anything is good. Another Puritan practice was to name their children after traits that they found to be admirable such as Faith, Patience, or Young Goodman Brown in hopes that that virtue would stay with them and be prevalent in their lives. The use of allusion is also apparent in Young Goodman Brown. The main character’s wife is named Faith. This is an allusion to his own faith. For example, Mr. Brown loses Faith when he goes into the dark woods with the spooky guy that walks with a serpent-staff.

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