In "Young Goodman Brown," what is significant about the names of the title character and his wife?

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rshaffer's profile pic

rshaffer | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Both the names Goodman Brown and Faith are symbolic of innocence and purity.  Goodman is a surname similar to using Mr. in today's society.  Referring to a man as "Goodman" also meant that the man was in good standing within the community.  In naming his characters Goodman and Faith, Hawthorne establishes his story as an allegory.  Brown's name is symbolic of the Everyman while Faith's name is symbolic of Goodman Brown's faith in society and mankind.  Hawthorne repeated uses references to Faith throughout the story to show Brown's ambivalence in taking this dark journey. 

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Of Hawthorne's tale, his friend Herman Melville wrote, 

Who in the name of thunder would anticipate any marvel in a piece entitled ‘Young Goodman Brown’? You would of course suppose that it was a simple little tale, intended as a supplement to ‘Goody Two-Shoes.’ Whereas it is as deep as Dante.

Truly, "Young Goodman Brown" is a morality tale as he encounters personifications of various qualities such as Faith and evil as represented by  the primeval forest--Puritans believed there was evil in the forest because the "devilish Indians" came and went through the forest--and the "old traveller" with his twisted walking stick (the Devil). Later, he encounters Goody Cloyse, his catechism teacher (the real Sarah Cloyse was accused of witchcraft in Salem trials), and Deacon Gookin, (the real Gookin participated in the Salem Witchcraft Trials). 

Brown accompanies the old man with the serpentine stick and enters the forest where, to his disheartening surprise, he sees at the black mass his Faith. As her pink ribbons waft to the ground, Goodman Brown watches the ingenuous beliefs that he has thought will lead him to heaven suddenly die. Goodman Brown, like Adam, suffers a great fall from innocence.