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What is the symbolism of the forest?

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fannies | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 22, 2007 at 12:26 AM via web

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What is the symbolism of the forest?

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted March 22, 2007 at 12:50 AM (Answer #1)

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The woods are the physical location in which Brown explores his doubts and opposing desires, and as such represent his personal hell. Although Brown eventually leaves the physical location of the woods, mentally he stays there for the rest of his life.

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kevinkirk | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted March 23, 2007 at 1:53 AM (Answer #2)

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The forest setting and the path become increasingly symbolic with details such as " the dark wall of forest, an altar like rock, blazing pines, the strange sinful hymn with all of this bathed in red light. It would seem to be Brown's preoccupation with sin.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 23, 2007 at 11:43 AM (Answer #3)

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In early American Literature, the forest is the home of the strange and threatening (Indians) and is also viewed as the home of the devil (there was probably some relationship to the Indians in their minds). It was the perfect setting for the trip that Brown (may) have made that night.

For a good comparison with the use of the forest, read "The Devil and Tom Walker."

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enhiii | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 16, 2008 at 12:13 PM (Answer #4)

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Symbolism is amazing in many ways, and so is this forest. I believe the forest was in many ways an evil place. This place didn't have to be evil but was. Many argue that this is Browns own mind, and he dwells deeper into madness. The forest is also on a dark path, so he is questioning his own religion, love for faith, and his beliefs on society in general. The most fascinating part about the forest to me is that it closes behind him. This is the point of no return, where he first doomed himself by willing to admit he is unsure of the world and his surroundings. This also is a symbol declaring that he may not return to his own faith, because his mind wont let him. He has lost sanity if you well. The forest is full of evil, and ancient puritan beliefs which is a great basis for the story in questioning dream or reality.

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enhiii | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 16, 2008 at 12:17 PM (Answer #5)

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Symbolism is amazing in many ways, and so is this forest. I believe the forest was in many ways an evil place. This place didn't have to be evil but was. Many argue that this is Browns own mind, and he dwells deeper into madness. The forest is also on a dark path, so he is questioning his own religion, love for faith, and his beliefs on society in general. The most fascinating part about the forest to me is that it closes behind him. This is the point of no return, where he first doomed himself by willing to admit he is unsure of the world and his surroundings. This also is a symbol declaring that he may not return to his own faith, because his mind wont let him. He has lost sanity if you well. The forest is full of evil, and ancient puritan beliefs which is a great basis for the story in questioning dream or reality. Oh, and if your really into the bible you could go as far as saying this is like the Garden of Eden. The tree holds forsaken fruit, but in this case it is a question of religion in general. There are too many symbols that could influence discussion about the forest.

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lisaplanet | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 5, 2011 at 1:33 AM (Answer #6)

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speak of the forest, one may think of THE DIVINE COMEDY by Dante in which he said "in life's midway, i get lost in the black forest", moreover, in the story, the setting is dark and gloomy, so for my part it represents the devil.

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nicegirl54 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted October 15, 2011 at 3:11 AM (Answer #7)

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Goodman Brown appears to represent human beings confronted with temptation–that is, he wishes to enter the dark forest of sin, so to speak, to satisfy his curiosity about the happenings there and perhaps even to take part in them. The man who meets Brown in the forest appears to represent the devil; his staff is a symbol of the devil as a serpent. Thus, we have Adam (Brown, curious to learn forbidden knowledge) facing the serpent in the Garden of Eden. It was, of course, a tree—the Tree of Knowledge—that enticed Adam. Goodman Brown is enticed by an entire forest. Like Adam, he suffers a great fall from innocence.
.......Faith appears to represent Brown’s religious faith and his faith in others; her pink ribbons stand for innocence. But when she also appears at the witches' sabbath—apparently, like Eve, desiring forbidden knowledge—she too loses her innocence. At the last moment before his and his wife's baptism into the evil society gathered in the forest, Brown urges his wife: "Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One." He then finds himself alone in the forest, wondering whether he has awakened from a dream or really did attend the witches' sabbath. But the damage is done, and he becomes "a stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man."

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jessiestone | College Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 8, 2011 at 9:38 PM (Answer #8)

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In my opinion, the forest represents the darkness through which people travel symbolically to reach spiritual goals. The "forest" is dark and foreboding with questionable entities and sounds that appear to distract the "traveler." Goodman Brown's statement that he must make the journey through the forest further indicates that it is a path everyone travels in life to seek the "answers" to spiritual questions. The point in this story is sometimes we find answers that we are not prepared to accept.

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carolin1787 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 20, 2012 at 12:59 AM (Answer #9)

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The forest/wilderness in American Romantic fiction is associated with the evil/devil/the dangerous. You can find the same meaning in all of Hawthorne's other works (e.g. the forest in the Scarlett Letter) As one user suggested: this association has its roots in early settler time when the uncivilized/unexplored forests of the 'New World' were indeed a dangerous place (wild animals, Indians, poisonous plants) The Puritans therefore associated the forest with the evil and wanted to civilize it. As Hawethorne's stories are set in Puritan age, he uses their hypocritical views on the world and human existence to criticize their self righteousness and excessive pride.

 

(from lecture on Am. Romantic Fiction at University of Graz)

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mutt-1 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 6, 2012 at 3:51 AM (Answer #10)

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THe Forest in that time period and the area was consider the domian of the Devil, and by entering that forest at night Brown was willingly and knowingly entering the Devils domain Brown is also entering the realm of his in doubts of his christian faith.

Sources:

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mcfox1948 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted November 7, 2012 at 8:56 PM (Answer #11)

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The forest is symbolic of evil and things we do not know or understand. The forest is where anything can happen, including meeting with the Devil!

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