What are the symbols and allegory present in "Young Goodman Brown"?

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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An allegory is a story with a moral message. The author uses symbols to help reveal the theme. The main message of this story is often said to be Hawthorne's rejection of the Puritan belief system, which was a belief in predestination---a person is saved and goes to heaven not on the basis of what he does, necessarily, but on whether God chooses to save him. However, people that have been chosen by God will act like in Godly ways. Obiviously, his can leave one in doubt about their salvation, as Goodman Brown discovers. The symbols in the story include Brown's name. It is a common name and he is meant to represent the common man. His wife's name, Faith, is also significant. She makes him late for his meeting ("Faith kept me back awhile.") However, her pink ribbons, which represent innocence, are left behind while she attends the forest meeting with the Devil. So, after his forest experience, Brown does not know whether to believe in "Faith" or not. The old man Brown meets is obviously the devil. The first clue is his staff which looks like a serpent. In Western literature, the forest is often a symbol for the unknown or the far corners of the mind. Thus, Brown's walk with the devil is a spiritual journey in which he moves from from innocence to recognizing that evil exists in the hearts of everyone.


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