Symbolism In Hawthorne's 'Young Goodman Brown'

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Written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the story of “Young Goodman Brown” is a dark tale written in the form of an allegory. To understand this short story, one must assume everything has a hidden meaning. On the surface, this story is about a man who ventures into the woods outside his village where he encounters a pagan ritual. Upon close reading, one discovers the story has a deeper purpose—its examination of religious beliefs. “Young Goodman Brown” symbolizes religious, seemingly moral people and their struggle to overcome temptation. To Hawthorne, who had a religious background himself, this story likely represents experiences from his own life. Hawthorne reveals the true meaning of this morbid tale through symbolism in the setting, the characters,…show more content…
Faith, Brown’s wife, symbolizes Brown’s faith in God. The whole story is based on Goodman Brown losing his faith in God. “Faith kept me back a while” (Hawthorne 343) has a hidden meaning in that Brown’s faith in God kept him from meeting with the guide. With most Christians, faith is what keeps one from temptation and the Devil. Goodman Brown has not been married to Faith for long which symbolizes he does not have strong faith in God yet. This helps the reader understand why he was so willing to leave his wife that night. Faith also represents an innocence untainted by temptation. When Goodman Brown thinks he has lost his wife Faith, he has also loses his faith in God. One can see the precise moment he gives into the devil when he says, “My Faith is gone! . . . There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, Devil! for to thee is this world given” (Hawthorne 347). In addition to symbolism through the use of Faith, the other characters symbolize the surrounding darkness. The characters in the ritual are people Goodman Brown thought would never be there because they were so close to God. Seeing the people he has believed to be good leads him to plunge into greater depths of temptation. The guide is also an important character in the story because he symbolizes the Devil. The…show more content…
Hawthorne’s use of symbolism through the setting represents both a seemingly good place and hell. Also, he uses symbolism in his characters that open Goodman Brown’s eyes to the surrounding evil. Furthermore, Brown’s wife reminds him of what he has been taught his whole life and makes him hesitant to pursue the path of doom. Another character, the guide, represents the Devil’s guiding Goodman Brown to Hell. Lastly, the fictional story uses symbolism in the evil assembly in the woods. The assembly, which has all the accouterments of a regular church is, in actuality, the polar opposite of a traditional church. The story symbolizes an average person’s fight with temptation, which causes his/her faith to

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