Symbolism And Allegory In Nathanial Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

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Nathanial Hawthorne’s short story “Young Goodman Brown” presents, through the use of clear symbolism and allegory, a narrative on the evil nature of mankind, particularly in a society where the motivation to be morally upstanding is entirely extrinsic. Throughout the text there are numerous references to symbolism, as well as imagery and symbolism that present themselves in the context of the story. There are also Formalist criticism focus on the presentation of a story as a unique unit, existing outside of any influence from outside society, culture, or time. Such a criticism may even go so far as to eschew the author’s personal life and possible influences in favor of finding all the value of a work within the work itself. Hawthorne’s “Young…show more content…
The most prominent of these are Faith’s pink ribbons. These are associated with purity and innocence, at least outwardly. Every time Faith is seen wearing them she is playing the role of perfect housewife. In the beginning of the story it is believed that she is innocent and pure, and at the end she again presents the façade of all that is good. When Goodman finds the ribbon in the forest he immediately understands the implication, exclaiming “’My Faith is gone! …There is no good on earth; sin is but a name…’” (Hawthorne 315). In the closing section it is discovered that, along with all other townspeople present at the ritual the night before Faith has reassumed the guise of wife “bursting into such joy at the sight of him [Goodman] that she skipped along the street…” (318). She is wearing her pink ribbons again and clearly believes that all is well. The ribbons can serve another meaning, however. Despite Goodman’s knowledge of Faith’s intrinsic evil she, along with the other townsfolk have resumed the lives they normally led. She dons the ribbons when she is in public, but in the perverse sanctity of the ritual she removes the ribbons and exposes her true self. The ease with which she changes outfits and roles depending on observation is highly reflective of the puritan society in which she lives. Morality is entirely based on the observation of others, or extrinsically motivated. If…show more content…
Throughout the story it is used as a form of transportation, both taking Goodman to the ritual and assisting the devil as a walking stick. It is made to look like a snake “so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wiggle itself like a living serpent.” (Hawthorne 312). In the context of the story the puritan society in which Goodman lives strongly associates the snake with the devil. Goodman’s initial reluctance to take it, then his submission show his own internal struggle in dealing with the devil, who ultimately resides within all
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