Symbols By Nathaniel Hawthorne 's Young Goodman Brown Essay

Symbols By Nathaniel Hawthorne 's Young Goodman Brown Essay

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The use of symbols in today’s culture has become so widespread that they often go unrecognized as symbols. Things like the American flag are a great example of a symbol, but they are seen so often that they become overlooked. Symbols are also incredibly common in literature, and authors love to use them to add a second meaning to many things in their stories. Nathaniel Hawthorne was a huge fan of symbols, and made that apparent in his short story Young Goodman Brown. The story is flush with symbols, and they can be easily grouped into three categories. Hawthorne uses some of his symbols to give a negative vibe to things such as characters or settings, as well as using the names of his characters to add an additional layer to the story. Lastly, Hawthorne’s choice of colors in the story are representative of the feelings that he is trying to get across.
The first negative symbol that appears in the story comes very early on with the setting of the woods. During the time period in which the story was written, the woods are seen as a dark place that is shrouded in mystery and evil. Puritans believed that the woods were the home of the devil, and these beliefs translate directly into the story. When he first approaches the woods, Goodman Brown murmurs to himself that “[t]here may be a devilish Indian behind every tree” or “the devil himself [could] be at [his] very elbow” (Brown 529). Fear of the unknown is what drives this symbol of the woods, and Goodman Brown really doesn’t know what he is getting himself into. This fear also plays a role in the time of day during which the story takes place, which is commonly overlooked as being an insignificant detail.
A town which has deep roots in American history with negative events such as it...


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...ing down on Goodman Brown in the end. Although Hawthorne decides against using one end of the color spectrum, he does include the other end and makes sure that its message is clear.
If white is used as the color to represent purity, then black is used to represent the exact opposite. When someone or something has lost all sense of purity and fallen to the darkness and evil, they will often be represented with the color black. The devil’s staff “[bears] the likeness of a great black snake” and even the weather seems corrupt with a “black mass of cloud sweeping northward” (529,533). With this color being used to represent the evil in the story, it makes even more sense that the majority of it takes place in the dark of night. The absence of light leads to everything being darkened and turned to black, as the appearance of the Devil has begun to corrupt the environment.

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