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Symbols In Young Goodman Brown

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Symbolizing Hawthorne’s View of Human Nature
Salem, Massachusetts in 1835 was home to a community of Puritans, a sect of Calvinists. This was during the American Romanticism period when human nature was to be embraced as a good, natural thing like a sign from God. Nathaniel Hawthorne went against this, saying that humans are not perfect, so their nature should not be embraced. He wrote Young Goodman Brown in 1835. Similar to his other works, this short story has themes of sin, hypocrisy, and flawed humanity. Hawthorne uses archetypical symbols in “Young Goodman Brown” to embody the wickedness and vileness of human nature.
Young Goodman’s wife, Faith, represents his own faith in God. She is first introduced when Brown is about to leave. This
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Hawthorne uses imagery and details to paint a dark landscape. Brown takes “a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind.” (Hawthorne 1). The night symbolizes evil and sin lurking, hidden by the darkness and absence of light. On his journey, he meets a traveler (Hawthorne 1). The story does not state that this man is the devil, though it is assumed; “it is doubtful that he recognized Satan at first, but he knew that his journey was an evil one, and his conscience hurt him because of his disloyalty to Faith.” (McKeithan 2). This companion walks Young Goodman Brown through the forest where they come across many figures from Brown’s past and present religious circles. They find Deacon Gookin, the town minister, and Goody Cloyse, “a very pious and exemplary dame…and was still his moral and spiritual adviser,” (Hawthorne 3). Later, Young Goodman Brown tells the traveler “‘That old woman taught me my catechism’… and there was a world of meaning in this simple comment.” (Hawthorne 4). The reader can almost hear the disappointment and despair when Brown realizes that his mentor is in the evil forest, just as he is. Hawthorne uses the symbols of role models to show that Brown puts his faith in people, not God. This is an ordinary…show more content…
When Brown meets the man, he notices that “the second traveller was about fifty years old…and bearing a considerable resemblance to him… they might have been taken for father and son.” (Hawthorne 2). This man, the Devil, looks just like Brown, and represents him at an older age. It is as if it is a future Brown, one who is as bitter and sinful as the Devil. In addition, the second man talks about his familiarity with the Brown family (Hawthorne 2) and so he simultaneously represents the heritage and ancestry of Young Goodman Brown. The man carries a snake staff, “which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent.” (Hawthorne 2). The staff alludes to the story of Moses, who carried a staff throughout all of his journeys. The life-like serpent described represents the snake in the Garden of Eden, who led Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and sin against God. The man is holding a staff symbolizes the triumphs of God, yet the alive serpent slithers around it and brings Brown’s eyes to glance upon it. The old man is who and what Young Goodman Brown wants to be. He is of this world and confident: “he had an indescribable air of one who knew the world, and who would not have felt abashed at the governor 's dinner table or in King William 's court,” (Hawthorne 2). Brown is attracted by the aura of this man that he
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