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Young Goodman Brown's Moral Decline

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Young Goodman Brown's Moral Decline

The symbolism of Young Goodman Brown’s moral decline bypasses the conscious, logical mind and is located in a more dreamlike process. It is interpreted to show that no one truly falls into the category of good or evil. Hawthorne’s use of symbolism shows the neutrality between good and evil and appearance and reality so that the reader is unable to comprehend the difference. Throughout the story, good and evil are described through a bombardment of metaphors. Brown’s long and winding journey through the forest, for example, represents his struggle between his conscious and subconscious. Brown meets the devil at a fork in the road that symbolizes the paths to heaven or hell. Obviously with the devil at his side, Brown took the latter.

The story begins in Brown’s village. The village is a traditional Puritan background: pure, innocent, and god-fearing, which can also illustrate Brown’s conscious. Before entering the forest, Brown looks back at his wife. As described in the story, Brown sees his wife, Faith, peeping back at him with her pink ribbons blowing in her hair. The pink ribbons embody the safety, security, and refuge from sin Brown was leaving behind. Brown statement, "after this one night I’ll cling on to her skirts and follow her into heaven"(96), shows his guilty pride since he believes he can sin by virtue of his promise to himself.

Leaving the village, he enters the forest which represents his subconscious that is infested with evil and sinister thoughts. Furthermore, it allegorically represents every man’s journey for knowledge, though knowledge is usually intertwined with evil such as the Tree of Knowledge in the Adam and Eve story. All the people and objects B...

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... his faith and morals are surrendered to material things, mainly his wife and the townspeople. When the townspeople succumb to the devil, Brown’s faith and ideals also yield to them. However, he himself does not comprehend that he has forsaken God and been lured into the grasp of Satan. Also, Brown’s lack of emotion indicates that he followed his mind, where the main conflict of the story is, instead of his heart. Due to his deficiency of compassion, he shows no grief for himself. As a result, he becomes faithfully and publicly disengaged and dismisses himself from the community.

Works Cited and Consulted

Benoit, Raymond. "'Young Goodman Brown': The Second Time Around." The Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 19 (Spring 1993): 18-21.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Complete Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc.,1959.
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