What word best describes each character in the story "Young Goodman Brown"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator


As an allegory "Young Goodman Brown" presents characters that are symbolic of human traits.  The names as symbols are obvious, the most obvious being that of Faith, whose innocence is symbolized by the pink ribbons which are seen a significantly religious three times:  as Goodman departs for the forest and his meeting with the dark forces of life, as he sees them in the forest "floating from the heavens," and as he returns home having "lost my Faith."

The title "goodman" in Puritan times was one given to socially beneath a gentleman, a title suggesting unworldliness and vulnerability.  The old man with a serpent-like staff represents the Devil; he resembles Goodman's grandfather and says that he is acquainted with Goodman's father who participated in the burning of an Indian village.  These references suggest that Goodman is not descended from tuly good men.

The names Goody Cloyse, the Minister, and Deacon Gookin suggest the hypocrisy that lurks behind the apparent good.  In fact, Goody Cloyse and Deacon Gookin were actual Puritans who pariticipated in the Salem Witchcraft Trial of 1692.

That Hawthorne meant for his story to be an allegory is evidenced not only by the use of these real names, but also by his belief that tales should be ones that teach moral lessons.

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Young Goodman Brown

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