What type of symbolism is found in Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown.” Symbolism is always part of Hawthorne’s works, found in names of characters or recurring objects (clothes, bushes,...

What type of symbolism is found in Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown.” Symbolism is always part of Hawthorne’s works, found in names of characters or recurring objects (clothes, bushes, darkness, etc.), and in other ways.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" is a moral allegory that serves to illustrate the Puritan doctrine of inherent depravity as the Brown, the Puritan Everyman, tests his faith by entering the forest primeval by joining the man "of grave and decent attire" for an evening in the wilderness. Clearly, then, the symbols are of a religious nature.

NAMES

  • Goodman Brown - "Goodman" is the Puritan form of address for any man, so Brown becomes in this allegory an Everyman.
  • Goody Cloyse - "Goody" is the short form of "goodwife"; ironcally, the witch who rides upon a broom and accompanies Deacon Gookin (a real-life character) into the forest is given this name. She it is, Brown says, that has taught him his catechism. Using these real characters lends Hawthorne story more historical reality.
  • The Traveler - The old man who accompanies Goodman into the forest resembles Goodman, suggesting that evil is pervasive in his family, and "wickedness in every human heart."
  • Faith - Representative of Brown's innocence, Faith becomes lost when Goodman enters the forest, and loses his beliefs in the precepts of Puritanism that are present. "My Faith is gone!" he cries in a fit of loneliness, and loss of belief in the precepts of Puritanism. Faith, too, becomes lost when Goodman enters the forest; later, he cries out, "My faith is gone!" as he realizes that his belief in the precepts of Puritanism has dissolved, symbolized by the wafting ribbons.
  • the Evil Assembly - The Black Mass in the forest and the assembly of Puritans who present a public morality that is not their own suggest the hypocrisy of the sect as well as the dangers (the burning pine trees) of entering a moral wilderness when one adopts the beliefs of others, without being fully convinced as an individual

THINGS 

  • The serpent-like staff of the old traveler - Of course, the serpent in Christian literature represents the devil, and in the Massachusetts of 1727, he was referred to as "Old Scratch" as exemplified by Washington Irving in his story "The Devil and Tom Walker." 
  • The pink ribbons - Symbolic of ingenuousness and innocence, the ribbons are inadvertently removed from Faith after she enters the forest primeval. 
  • The forest - A symbol of the subconscious and the unknown, the wilderness is a dark area to enter; it suggests confusion and nightmare; it is a sinister path upon which Goodman Brown sets out on a spiritual journey that turns into a dark dream in which he questions his beliefs and those around him and finds no answers. "The fiend in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man." 

One critic writes of Young Goodman Brown, "The effect of horror and disillusionment spiced with sardonic humor is produced by the prevailing  mood of 'Young Goodman Brown.'"

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