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 Goodman Brown” is an excellent example for a formalist reading as most, if not all, of the imagery and symbolism is created within the story itself. (Include info from sources)
Throughout the work, there are various recurring symbols that represent different ideals. 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 [Goodm...
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...l. The wilds of the forest convey a sense of foreboding and mystery, with the fear that, as Goodman exclaims, “’There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree’… ‘What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!’” (Hawthorne 311)
Hawthorne states “…in every bosom, the deep mystery of sin…” with the clear implication that all men are capable of sinning, or committing evil (318). This declamation comes when the dramatic tension is at its peak, immediately before it is revealed that his wife, Faith is also attending the satanic ritual.
The tale of Goodman Brown is rife with self-creating imagery and symbolism. These devices lead the argument that this story presents a narrative on how the observation-based faith of Puritan New-England lead to the moral decline of the society where all members, and possibly all of mankind wish to revert to a primordial, evil state.
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