Young Goodman Brown Analysis

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Analyzing Young Goodman Brown
Rude comments, road rage, jealously, and the like; these are things that each of us encounters daily in our lives. The question then must be asked of how often, and if only for a millisecond, do ill wishes towards another enter your mind when these things occur? Do you act on these feelings? Of course not; this is because you are able to overcome evil. This battle of good vs. evil in society is precisely what Nathaniel Hawthorne shows through a great deal of intertwined religious symbolism in his short story, Young Goodman Brown.
We begin with the forest. As Young Goodman Brown leaves his wife Faith (more on Faith later), he ventures off to conduct his unsavory task and must travel through the forest. The first thing that stands out about the forest is the trees. The trees are described as that “which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through” (449).This immediately brings to mind the old adage of the straight and narrow road, which generally considered a moral and ethical means of conducting oneself. Further strengthening this sentiment is the narrator’s description of this path as “as lonely as can be” (449). The straight and narrow road is often described as a lonely one, because it’s believed that most people will take the easiest way possible. In this light, the forest represents all that is evil in this world or the path of sinners.
As Young Goodman Brown gets deeper into the forest he wonders whether he will encounter the devil himself (449). He links up with an older man, who tells him that he is late. Young Goodman Brown replies that “Faith kept me awhile back” (450), further strengthening the religious undertones. This man also possesses a staff described as having the “lik...

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...hrough the forest. He now looks at them in a different light (literally and figuratively). He comes to find Faith, the Faith that just the night before he clung so dearly too, but due to the revelation of sin of all those in his life, he now also views differently. Young Goodman’s Faith is not what it used to be. The narrator states that Young Goodman becomes dark and distrustful (455) of all those around him and his religion to the end of his days. Thus, the symbolism here lies in how sin corrupts your faith, no matter how large or small it is.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s use of symbolism in Young Goodman Brown is quite clear. The use of the forest outside of Salem, with the area’s dark history revolving witches, the use of Faith serving a dual purpose, and the serpent like staff, collectively produce a compelling tale that any remotely religious person can relate to.
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