Symbolism in Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Symbolism in Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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“Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel

Hawthorne contains much symbolism. The symbols take many forms

from the setting to the characters. The symbols can be viewed as

just part of the story line, but apon further thought they

represent many different things. Faith, Brown’’s wife, is a

symbol herself. When he says, ““My love and my Faith,”” he is

using his wife as a symbol and is really referring to his love

and faith in God. He goes on to say ““this one night I must tarry

away from thee.”” He means that he must part from his faith in

God to carry on with his journey. He also says to the devil, ““

Faith kept me back awhile”” and is making reference to a higher

being that is trying to keep him from making his journey by

delaying it. When Brown finds the pink ribbon that his wife was

wearing lying in the forest he says, ““my Faith is gone”” and is

referring to himself as losing his faith in God. Also, Goodman

Brown’’s ““errand”” symbolizes the Puritan voyage where they were

to find the plan that God has set for them and let faith be their

guidance. As Goodman Brown continues his ““errand”” and thing

begin to go array he grows weak and falls to the ground. He

"begins to doubt whether there really was a Heaven above him" and

this is a key point when Goodman Brown's faith begins to wain.

Goodman Brown in panic declares that "With Heaven above, and

Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!" This is

similar to a Puritan putting his faith in God and following

““God’’ Plan.”” The forest that Goodman Brown ventures to in

itself is a symbol. In the Puritan days the townspeople were

barred from going into the forest because that is where evil

lurked and even says ““ my father never went into the woods……nor

his father before him.”” Hawthorne described the forrest as ““ a

dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest””

and even jokes of the evil lurking there when he says ““there may

be a devilish Indian behind every tree”” and ““What if the devil

himself should be at my very elbow!”” Hawthorne even uses the

main character as a symbol. His name, Young Goodman Brown makes

reference to him as being young and a good person. Then Hawthorne

gives him such a common last name that it relates him to any and

everybody, just like he does in one of his other short stories,

““Everyman””, when he uses this as a reference to all of society.

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Another symbol that is present in the story is the mysterious man

in the forest. He symbolizes the devil or evil in the story and

strangely bears ““a considerable resemblance to [Goodman

Brown].”” The Devil had with him a staff that "bore the likeness

of a great black snake". The staff, which looked like a snake,

symbolizes the snake in the story of Adam and Eve. The snake led

Adam and Eve to their destruction by leading them to the Tree of

Knowledge, just as Brown is being led to unfathomed knowledge by

the devil, and in turn is being led to his destruction. Just like

Adam and Eve, when Brown finds the ““ fountain of all wicked

arts”” his faith is exiled from him just as Adam and Eve were

cast from the garden. The story as a whole symbolizes that the

potential for evil resides in everybody. The rest of Brown’’s

life is destroyed because of his inability to face the truth of

sin and live with it. The story, which may have been a dream, and

not a real life event, planted the seed of doubt in Brown's mind,

which him to lose his faith in his fellow man and leaves him

alone and depressed. His life ends alone and miserable because he

was never able to look at himself and realize that what he

believed were everyone else's faults were his as well, and this

led to his isolation from the community. Brown was buried with

"no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was

gloom."

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