Nathaniel Hawthorne 's Young Goodman Brown Essay

Nathaniel Hawthorne 's Young Goodman Brown Essay

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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 story immediately sets off with Young Goodman Brown coming out of his house onto the street, but putting “his head back, after crossing the threshold,” (Hawthorne 1). It is assumed that the threshold the author speaks about is a literal threshold of the doorway. But, Hawthorne easily could have put this imagery to explain that Brown is not just leaving his house, he is leaving his wife, his Faith, at home as he crosses the threshold between his Puritan ways and explicit sin. Faith has pink ribbons upon her cap (Hawthorne 1) that are clear allegorical symbols to represent the state of his faith. Red, representing passion and sin combines with white, the color of purity, to create pink shades that depict tainted and shaken faith. The young couple has only been married for three months (Hawthorne 1). This sets the stage for obstacles in his journey that could easily move his vulnerable faith. He is new and inexperienced when it comes to avoiding these temptations. So he sets off, saying “‘My Fait...


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...e Brown is sucked into the mess of the forest, he cannot escape it.
Once Young Goodman Brown exits the forest, he realizes that he could not simply go in and come back out as the same man, though that was his plan. He discovers the nature of humanity in the forest, but outside, he discerns that these flaws are everywhere. His experience in the forest opened his eyes so that while he is no longer naïve, he is also distrusting and bitter. The symbols of Faith, the forest, and the old man all mix and mingle to shape Hawthorne’s view of human nature portrayed in the story. Human nature, while inevitable, can be looked past and accepted. In order to trust others and be happy, one must forget the evil essence of humans. To focus on the virtue, righteousness, and morality that all individuals possess, no matter how insignificant it seems, is crucial to truly enjoy life.

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