Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale, “Young Goodman Brown,” is rich in symbolism, as this essay will amply illustrate.
Hugo McPherson in “Hawthorne’s Use of Mythology” explains how the author’s “inner drama” may be expressed in his symbolism:
The imaginative foundation of a writer’s work may well be an inner drama or ‘hidden life’ in which his deepest interests and conflicts are transformed into images or characters; and through the symbolic play of these creations, he comes to ‘know’ the meaning of his experience; the imaginative structure becomes a means of reaching truth. . . . he lives ‘a life of allegory,’ and each of his works expresses one facet or another of the total structure. . . .heart-leading symbol. [The Heart became] Hawthorne’s central preoccupation and his leading symbol (68).
Edmund Fuller and B. Jo Kinnick in “Stories Derived from New England Living” state: “Hawthorne’s unique gift was for the creation of strongly symbolic stories which touch the deepest roots of man’s moral nature” (31). Stanley T. Williams in “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind” states that the author was forever “perfecting his delicate craft of the symbol, of allegory, of the few themes and oft repeated character-types which were to haunt forever the minds of those who know New England” (42).
Let us begin with the opening lines of the story: “YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN came forth at sunset, into the street of Salem village. . .” What is Goodman Brown symbolic of? 1. According to Levy, he “is Everyman. The bargain he has struck with Satan is the universal one . . . . Initially, he is a naive and immature young man who fails to understand the gravity of the step he has taken . . . [which is] succeeded by a presumably adult determination to resi...
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.... Jo Kinnick in “Stories Derived from New England Living.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Hale, John K. “The Serpentine Staff in ‘Young Goodman Brown.’” Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 19 (Fall 1993): 17-18.