What are the meanings of the names in "Young Goodman Brown"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" is an allegory,  the names characterize their owners. Goodman's name suggests that he represents every man while Faith represents goodness.  Indeed, it is with an ironic twist that some characters are named.  For instance, Goody Cloyse, the catechist and Deacon Gookin are the actual names of two people who were closely involved in the Salem Witchcraft Trials.  It is Goody Cloyse who remarks that the devil resembles the grandfather of Goodman Brown.  So, again there is irony in the young Brown's name, as he is descended from a man who has burnt an Indian village.  Also, Brown himself sanctimoniously feels "justified in his evil purpose," calling into question his '"good" character. 

In addition, the names of some of the characters contribute to the ambiguity of the ending.  For instance, while Goodman watches the Black Mass in the forest, he shouts, "Oh, I have lost my Faith!" implying that he has lost her to the evil people with the devil. The next day, when he looks sternly into his wife's face and goes on, Brown appears to act as though he has lost his faith in goodness.  The double entendre that this name lends contributes to the ambiguity of Brown's attitude.  Who truly is the guilty one?  Has Faith joined the devil, or is Goodman Brown a hypocrite posing as the righteous one?

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Young Goodman Brown

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