Young Goodman Brown – Symbolism

Young Goodman Brown – Symbolism
Symbolism in Young Goodman Brown
Hawthorne depicts a 17th century Puritan attempting to reach justification as Browns faith required. Upon completing his journey, however, Brown could not confront the terrors of evil in his heart and chose to reject all of society. Puritan justification was a topic Hawthorne was aware of as a journey to hell necessary for amoral man. Having referred to the heart of man as hell, Puritans founds themselves in the midst of Satan and his multitude of devils as he established his kingdom in mans heart. This was a dreadful revelation that caused Brown to grow bitter and distrustful. Puritan communities, secured by their orthodox faith, dealt with the ungodly wilderness around them. Set in Salem during the early witchcraft day of then, Young Goodman Browns experience in the dark, evil forest correlated and would have been recognized by Puritans as a symbol of mistrust of their own corrupt hearts and faculties. Just as man could not trust the shadows and figures he saw hidden in the forest, he could not trust his own desires. Those desires had to be tested through his journey into the forest. Those evil spirits constantly tortured the Puritan, constantly reminding him of his sin and the battle in his own heart. Hawthorne used the presence of these demon in “Young Goodman Brown” by demonstrating, through Brown, the Puritan Journey towards Justification. Going through the forest towards Justification was marked by the disappearance of the self. In place of the self, was the awareness of helplessness and the illusions of sin. This awareness would then assist the moral man to no longer depend upon material things or people, but to put his faith solely upon God. Hawthornes knowledge of the historical background of Puritanism combined with the personal experience of his early life and the history of his own family merge into the statement that “Young Goodman Brown” makes. A system in which individuals cannot trust themselves, their neighbors, their instructors or even their ministers can not create and atmosphere where faith exists.

Hawthornes tale places the newly wed Puritan Brown upon the road to what may or may not be a true conversion experience. The conversion experience, a sudden realization brought about by divine intervention, a vision, or perhaps a dream, easily translates into the dream of Hawthornes work and allows the author to use Puritan doctrine and the history of Salem to argue the merits and consequences of such a belief.

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At the storys outset, Young Goodman Brown bids farewell to his young wife. His pretty young wife Faith is identified by the pink ribbons in her hair. It is ironic that Brown associates her with something as insignificant as a ribbon. Faith tries to hold Brown back from his journey, but he insists on going. Why he must go is not stated. Brown is leaving his house at sunset for a journey that will take him into the woods. Night time and the woods are believed to be the haunting grounds of witches. Nature, specifically the wind, the forest, the darkness of evening, symbolizes evil and sinfulness. For a man to be so pure of heart, he obviously had some questions about himself in order to risk losing his Faith and reputation upon a journey into the woods. While Brown is in the forest he sees many of the upstanding members of his community which confuses him as to what is right and what is wrong. There is certainly irony in the fact that it is the most pious church people who appear at the evil gathering in the forest. The old woman who passes Young Goodman Brown and the devil on the path is recognized by Brown when he….. exclaims “That old woman taught me my catechism!” Probably wondering what she was doing in the woods at night, not thinking that she would be involved with such a meeting. Characters such as Goody Cloyse, Deacon Gookin, and the Minister are leaders of the town of Salem. They are believed to be the most pious people of their community and are revered by all of their righteous in life. The devil, whom Goodman Brown meets while in the woods, resembles Brown, and he carries a rod which resembles a live serpent. The rod represents evil and his appearance stands for the reflection of evil in every man. As Brown heads further into the woods he tries to figure out what is going on. He is very suspicious of every rock and tree, thinking something evil will jump out at him. When he finally does meet someone on the trail, who appears to be of evil origin, he feels confident that he can refuse any temptations. This evil person makes several advances and Goodman refuses. This makes Goodman feel strong until they met his childhood catechism teacher and sees her turned. He continues down the trail looking for hope in the heavens but hears only howling voices. Goodman eventually reaches his destination and sees the rest of his community there participating in satanic acts. He believes his wife is there, and on being brought before the altar for the baptismal services, he sees that she is, in fact, there. Brown screams for faith to hold on to her God and everything vanishes. The following morning he finds himself in the forest and wonders what happened the previous night. Whether the scenes he witnessed were real or his imagination, he believes what he remembers and trusts no one in the village, not even his wife.

The author tells in the end that Goodman is distrusting after his journey, so he either did meet the devil or fell asleep. The story seems to lean toward him meeting the devil in person. If Goodman had dreamt the entire trip the author would have probably described his anxiety with more detail in the beginning. This would have allowed the reader to believe that events were not real.

When Goodman comes back he thinks he is better that the rest and judges everyone instantly. He then comes to the conclusion that he is the only person that is not a devil worshiper. Just as before with the witch trials, he is judging them as the so called witches were judged by his ancestors. A reference to Martha Carrier is made in the story, Goodmans predicament is similar to hers. She was isolated from the community because of her beliefs just like Goodman felt isolated or isolated himself.

The views and beliefs of the people of that era were if anything to an extreme. Whatever they believed they worshipped with a vengeance. This extreme faith can be compared to the people of today. If they feel they cannot pursue a career and succeed, they feel as if their life has no meaning. This most likely has its roots from the protestant work ethic. The ethic, in general, says that you must work hard to please God and compete for a place in heaven. This story is about such people. The modern day person has taken this work ethic and given it a greedy twist. People of today fight for position, status or power just as much as the pioneer puritans worshipped and studied the bible.

Hawthorne uses symbolism and irony to illustrate the theme of man not knowing that sin is and unavoidable part of human nature. The idea that man can lead a perfect life seems to dominate the view of Hawthorns Puritan everyman, Young Goodman Brown. Thus making Hawthornes character illustrate the consequences of embracing too pious of an attitude and too simplistic of a view.

Young Goodman Brown Symbolism

Young Goodman Brown Symbolism Nathaniel Hawthorne is a nineteenth-century American writer of the Romantic Movement. Hawthorne was born is Salem, Massachusetts, and this is the place he used as the setting for some of his works: such as The Scarlett Letter, the Blithedale Romance and Young Goodman Brown. In writing, Hawthorne was known for his use of allegory and symbolism, which made his stories a joy for everyone to read. Hawthorne was said to be the first American writer who was conscious of the failure of modern man to realize his full capacity for moral growth. His stories contain much about the life he knew as a child being brought up in a Puritan society.

As Hawthornes writing continued it was filled with the same amount of sin and evil as his first writings. Evil that was revealed through his works. Young Goodman Brown was said to be one of the best stories ever written by Hawthorne (Adams70). The Marble Faun: and the Scarlett Letter were some of the other stories written by Hawthorne, and they were said to be Young Goodman Brown grown older. In this selection there is a question of maturity for Goodman Brown and whether he is good or evil.

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There is also a transition from childishness to adolescence to maturity. This short story in particular has a feeling of adultery, betrayal, and deception as in some of his other works. It was said by Richard P. Adams that young Goodman Brown was a germ for nearly all his best work that followed (Adams 71). The use of symbolism in young Goodman Brown shows that evil is everywhere, which becomes evident in the conclusion of this short story.

Hawthornes works are filled with symbolic elements and allegorical elements. Young Goodman Brown deals mostly with conventional allegorical elements, such as Young Goodman Brown and Faith. In writing his short stories or novels he based their depiction of sin on the fact that he feels like his father and grandfather committed great sins. There are two main characters in this short story, Faith and Young Goodman Brown. Young Goodman Brown is everyman seventeenth-century New England the title as usual giving the clue.

He is the son of the Old Adam, and recently wedded to Faith. We must note that every word is significant in the opening sentence: Young Goodman Brown came forth at sunset into the street of Sale, Village; but put his head back, after crossing the threshold, to exchange a parting kiss with his young w2ife. She begs him to put off his journey until sunrise, but he declares he cannot. [It] should not escape us that she tries to stop him because she is a similar compulsion to go on a journey herself-She talks dreams, too, Young Goodman Brown reflects as he leaves her. The journey each must take alone, in dread, at night, is the journey away form home and the community from conscious, everyday social life, to the wilderness where the hidden self satisfies or forces us to realize its subconscious fears and prompting in sleep.

We take that journey with him into the awful forest. Noting the difference between the town and the forest. We see Hawthorne using the Puritan association of trees and animals. When Young Goodman associates returns to Salem Village, his eyes are opened to the true nature of his fellowmen, that is human nature; he inescapably knows that what he suspected of himself is true of all men Hawthorne has made a dramatic poem of the Calvinist experience in New England. The unfailing tact with which the experience is evoked subjectively in the more impressive concrete terms, is a subordinate proof of genius.

I should prefer to stress the wonderful I control of local and total rhythm, which never falters of stackers, and rises from the quest but impressive opening to its poetic climax in the superb and moving finale. Hawthorne has imaginatively recreated for the reader that Calvinist sense of sin, that theory did in actuality shape the early social and spiritual history of New England. But in Hawthorne by a wonderful feat of translation, it has no religious significance; it is as a psychological state that it explored. Young Goodman Browns faith in human beings, and losing it he is doomed to isolation forever (Peabody 331). Young Goodman Brown is the main character and the protagonist, and Faith Brown, his wife is said to be one of the antagonists in this selection.

Young Goodman Brown is a husband of three months and is still said to be immature. Brown symbolizes immaturity, goodness, and everyman. He is a very religious person, happy in his marriage, trustworthy and nave. Young Goodman Brown is stern, sad, darkly meditative, distrustful if not a desperate man (Adams 72). Brown is said to be nave because he goes into this evil forest even though his wife warned him of the danger that he was about to encounter.

Brown, actually is every man, whether young or old our parents in some way try to protect us form danger and thats just what his mothers ghost was trying to do, but as we all know our fathers pushes us on even if we are going to make a mistake and thats just what his fathers ghost did. This forest represents evil and destruction. There is always an association between forests and evil because of its dark and gloomy nature. That is why the witch meetings were held in the midst of it. Faith was another character in the story; she was the wife of Young Goodman Brown.

This young woman is filled with sin yet she is said to be Godly. Because Faith was so honest and Godly, Young Goodman Brown put all of his faith in her, which made heroin of his worst enemies. Faith is said to be a good wife pure and poisonous, a saint and sinner and a pretty pink ribbon-wearing woman. Hoffman writes that Faith is the forest. They both are considered to be evil (Levy 121).

Faiths ribbon is a description of her personality or her inner-self. The pink ribbon that Faith wears is a symbol of sin and purities. Faiths ribbon is found in the evil forest and thats when Faith is really seen as an unclear person. Faith is also said to have committed adultery not only against Young Goodman Brown but also against God because she gave in to the likes of the devil. The ribbons provide a continuity between faith as an ideal of religious fidelity and as partner in a witches Sabbath. (Levy 122). The other character in this story was the devil or the other antagonist of Young Goodman Brown.

The devil figure has a double function; he encourages and frightens the next candidate up for the evil baptism or damnation. This man is seen as an old person dressed raggedly and considered to be evil in a sense because he is in the forest. He leads Young Brown through the woods with a staff. A staff to some may symbolize Godliness but this one was carved in the shape of a snake, which is associated with evil and sneakiness as in the Garden of Eden. This staff is what Young Goodman Brown carried in to the witch meeting.

Even though there were some major characters, there were some flat characters also: Goody Cloyse, the minister, and the deacon. Goody Cloyse was supposed to be the holy lady that taught everyone the catechism but she was just as evil as the forest because she was also a witch. The minister and the deacon were also corrupted and evil. They all were considered to be holy and people of God, but they were just the opposite. Young Goodman Brown was a short story that dealt with the realisms of reality. There was a question asked by the author at the end of the story: was this story a dream or was it reality? Young Goodman Brown at the beginning of this story was a immature, good, loyal, trustworthy, and holy man.

He lacked strength, courage, firmness, seriousness, and determination as Puritan should, but at a point in this story he became an adult and matured. The story ended with Goodman Brown becoming a stern, sad darkly meditative, distrustful, if not desperate man. Hawthorne used all the character in this story to prove that good people also contain evil aspects. This story has proven to be a success. Bibliography Adams, Richard P. Hawthornes Provincial Tales. Oklahoma, 1972. Parenthetical note: (Adams 70-77) Daugherty, Sara B.

The Literary Criticism of Henry James. Ed. Sara Daugherty. Ohio: 1981. (Daugherty 39, 96-97) Gale, Robert.

Nathaniel Hawthorne Encyclopedian. New York: London, (541-542) Levy, Leo B. Journal of English and Germanic Philogoly. The Problems of Faith in Young Goodman Brown: no. 3 (1975) The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. (Levy 115-127) Mandell, Stephen.

Ed. Literature. :Young Goodman Brown: By Nathaniel Hawthorne. New New York: 1991. (298-308).


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