Discussion Topic

The symbolism, allegory, and symbolic elements in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown."

Summary:

In "Young Goodman Brown," symbolism and allegory are prevalent. The journey into the forest represents a departure from faith, while characters like Faith symbolize purity and Goodman Brown's own religious conviction. The forest itself is a symbol of the unknown and sin. These elements collectively explore themes of inherent evil and the loss of innocence.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Name a passage in "Young Goodman Brown" that represents plot, setting, and symbolism.

Name the following passages in Young Goodman Brown: one that embodies plot, one that embodies setting, and another that embodies symbolism.

Since the setting is central, start there: Look at Brown's first entry into the forest, in the paragraph beginning " With this excellent resolve for the future…"
Symbolism is found many places, but most clearly in relation to Brown's wife. Look at the crisis: Faith! Faith!'' cried the husband, look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one.''
As for plot, that's actually harder, because the plot is so symbolic/allegorical. I'd actually go with this one: His head being turned back, he passed a crook of the road, and, looking forward again, beheld the figure of a man, in grave and decent attire, seated at the foot of an old tree. He arose at Goodman Brown's approach and walked onward side by side with him.

This sums up the problem (Goodman looking the wrong way), the path he's walking, both literal and metaphorical, and the threat: the devil.

Greg

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does symbolism contribute to the story in "Young Goodman Brown"?

In the sense that this story can be read allegorically, the use of symbolism contributes quite a bit. An allegory is a text that has at least two layers of meaning: one is the literal plot, taken at face value, and the other is a figurative layer, a meaning that the text acquires as a result of the one-to-one symbolism of characters, objects, and places in the story.

An allegory is often a literal representation of something that we ordinarily think of as intangible. Goodman Brown, for instance, is a literal character, and we might interpret him symbolically as a kind of "everyman" Christian: his common last name as well as the typical-for-the-1600s appellation of "Goodman" (which was like "Mister") seem appropriate.

As a Christian, he thinks of himself as a good man, but we are, evidently, meant to interrogate this assumption. His abandonment of his wife, Faith, at home hints at her symbolism: she can be interpreted as a representative of his Christian faith, which he first neglects and later intends to exploit after this "one night" of sin, and he eventually loses her altogether in the end (never able to enjoy the peace she once brought him). Her pink ribbons can be read as symbolic of the innocence and purity associated with Faith/faith initially, and they are lost when Brown goes into the woods (when he has lost his faith). The forest, the snake staff carried by the devil, and so on, can all be interpreted as symbols in this way, adding a whole other layer of meaning to Hawthorne's story: when a Christian intentionally abandons his or her faith, even for a short while, he or she may lose the gift of God's grace forever.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the symbolic implications of Young Goodman Brown's journey into the forest in Hawthorne's story?

Your word implications is an interesting choice. For, the suggested meanings of the journey into the forest are ambiguous since, as the previous response so aptly states, the reader does not know if Goodman Brown actually has gone into the forest. Perhaps, then, what is implicated, or inferred, is that the forest is the dark region of the heart, the flawed part of everyman's heart that entertains the idea of evil and sin. In order to assure himself of his perceptions of his wife and others, Goodman Brown must face this dark side. When he enters the forest, or darkness of his own heart, he emerges as one who has lost his faith in goodness, since he, like Kurtz in Joseph Conrad''s "Heart of Darkness" has seen "the horror!" as love and sin seek possession of his soul.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the symbolic implications of Young Goodman Brown's journey into the forest in Hawthorne's story?

The most important symbol is the forest itself.  In part because it was the home of the Indians, in part because it was a dark pathless place, it is symbolically the home of the devil.  Brown must go on the journey into the forest just as we all must when we discover that the world and the people in it are not as perfect as we might think of them when we are young.  Sometimes we see this when we find that our parents are just people, not perfect; sometimes it is some other adult in our life.  We do not elect to take this trip; we have to.  Brown tells his wife that he is going to leave her on this initiation just this one life, and then he will be with her forever; sadly, although he is with her, he is not the same man.

Of course, we do not know if Brown ever actually went into the woods or whether the whole evening was just a dream.  But it doesn't make any difference because he was not able to accept the "evil" he though he saw in those closest to him.  

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the symbolic implications of Young Goodman Brown's journey into the forest in Hawthorne's story?

In the story "Young Goodman Brown" when Brown goes into the forest, “Hawthorne emphasizes the split between convention and the unconscious by having Brown move from the town to the country as he follows his impulses.  The deeper he moves into the forest, the more completely he becomes one with his ‘evil’” (Bunge 13). The forest is evil and the act of going into the forest is an act of faith.  Brown feels he can remain faithful to who he is, yet the farther he goes the more he becomes in-touch with that darkness in all of us.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of the dream-like quality in "Young Goodman Brown"?

Good question.  The depth of this story relies on the uncertainty of the forest meeting.  The end of the story paints a dismal picture of Goodman Brown's life after the forest encounter.  He spends the rest of his days quite cynical about the people in his community and their devotion to God.  He is unsure of himself, his wife, and his religion.  What happens is we, as readers, get to attempt to decipher whether or not the main event in the story was a real occurrence or a figment of Brown's imagination.  Either way, the dream-like quality forces the reader to consider Brown's character.  We are left wondering if the townspeople are hypocrites who have failed Brown and destroyed his innocence and faith, or if the events of the story revolve around Brown's own internal struggle with his faith.  On the one hand, we get a condemnation of the Puritans, and on the other hand, a condemnation of too much doubt and paranoia.  The significance of the dream-like quality in this story is to show the reader that things aren't always what they seem, but also to suggest that too much concern for others' faults leaves one out in the cold and loveless.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the purpose of the allegory in "Young Goodman Brown"?

I agree that there are plenty of things to examine in Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown." For me, tragic loss of faith and exposure of hypocrisy are the two primary revelations in this story. The young husband is ruined for life in one night, either in a dream or in reality, as he chooses to believe all he sees and experiences.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the purpose of the allegory in "Young Goodman Brown"?

"Young Goodman Brown" is yet another narrative by Nathaniel Hawthorne that is written with his signature ambiguity:

Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the orest and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting?

Be it so if you will; but alas! it was a dream of evil omen for young Goodman Brown.  A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a deperate man did he become from the night of that fearful dream.

This Hawthorean ambiguity raises the question of what truth is.  Does it not lie within the person, rather than in exterior elements?  And is it not, as Robert Browning writes, "that perfect, clear perception" that few attain?  Certainly, the sanctimonious Puritans, whose minds were clouded by their stringent ideology, were not in possession of it.

Perhaps, then, Hawthorne's purpose is to arouse in the reader the question of how dogmatic anyone should really be when spiritual matters are concerned.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the purpose of the allegory in "Young Goodman Brown"?

I think this story is about the way that if you scratch hard enough, underneath the exterior of us all there are depths of evil and wrongdong. This seems to be a massive theme in the majority of Hawthorne's work - the hypocrisy of Puritan society and how there is a dark side to all of us, no matter how devout or seemingly holy. It is this central truth that Goodman Brown experiences and changes his life forever.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the purpose of the allegory in "Young Goodman Brown"?

Here's the passage from the story that I had in mind when I wrote my first post:

But, irreverently consorting with these grave, reputable, and pious people, these elders of the church, these chaste dames and dewy virgins, there were men of dissolute lives and women of spotted fame, wretches given over to all mean and filthy vice, and suspected even of horrid crimes. It was strange to see, that the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the saints.

The narrator relates the reaction of Young Goodman Brown, who finds the mixing of the so-called "good" people with the so-called "wicked" people to be "irreverently consorting" in the clearing in the forest. The verb "consort" is loaded with meaning; it is often used in judgments about someone's illicit sexual behaviors or even their alleged relations with the devil. In this scene, Young Goodman Brown sees himself as above everyone else; he believes that he is the only one remaining true to the community's beliefs and thus is the only one with the right to judge everyone else.

Hawthorne's short story, much like his novel A Scarlet Letter, seems to me much more a critique than an affirmation of the Puritan worldview. The main character is being tested, in a sense, but the test consists of him being forced to reconcile a rigid belief system with the complexities of the real world (in which everyone is mix of the sinner and the saint, not simply one extreme or the other). That's the test that the main character fails, in my view.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the purpose of the allegory in "Young Goodman Brown"?

To me, the story is about trust.  Young Goodman Brown is being tested to see if he trusts the other people in his community (particularly his wife).

Young Goodman Brown is shown this vision, and he can choose whether or not to really believe in it.  He chooses to believe it rather than trusting Faith and the others.  That ruins his life, basically.

So I see it as a story about him being tempted to lose faith in other people.  He fails the test.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the purpose of the allegory in "Young Goodman Brown"?

The purpose of the story is probably wide open to interpretaton. I can imagine that everyone will have something different to say.

For me, Hawthorne's short story "Young Goodman Brown" seems to be a meditation on the whole notion of "piety." The title character seems to respect most those people in his life whom he sees as the most pious, and his noctural journey into the woods reveals that everyone he knows or respects is deeply flawed after all -- his father and grandfather, the woman who taught him his catechism and the men who govern the town, even his lovely wife. One of the scenes that leaps to my mind as an illustration of this revelation is Young Goodman Brown's reaction when he sees the people he respects consorting with the people he does not respect.

The allegorical meanings of the story might be a little more consistent from reader to reader. The dark woods and the clearing in the forest seem, again to me, to indicate the repressed side of our nature or the unpleasant truths about the world. Young Goodman Brown's literal journal through the woods, then, is an allegorical journey of growth, awareness, and education (or disillusion).

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are some symbols in the story 'Young Goodman Brown'?

Because the story is a great example of allegory, you could probably make a case that everything in the story as some symbolic significance.  The settings are symbolic -- the town is civilization and rational behavior; the forest is a "moral wilderness" where Brown is tempted by the Devil's promises.  The name of his wife, Faith, is symbolic.  In each place her name is used, the reader can substitute faith with a lower case "f" meaning his faith in God.  She is a symbol of goodness, and when he thinks he sees her ribbon in the woods, his Faith is gone (with the Devil) and his faith (in God, the goodness of people) is gone.  Faith's pink ribbons are an interesting color choice.  First of all, Puritans generally didn't not adorn themselves with pretty colorful ribbons, but Faith's ribbons suggest a youthfulness and a slight "bending of the rules."  The color is also created by mixing white (purity) with red (sin).  The color could then suggest that Faith is not wholly good or evil -- just a mix that is typical in human nature. 

Brown's journey through the woods is symbolic of a quest.  He must go on this mission, be challenged along the way, and come from the quest a changed man -- this certain happens to Brown.  The ending may not be all that happy for him, but he is the one who brings about his own misery, only able to suspect the worst in those around him.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is a symbol used in "Young Goodman Brown" and how does it relate to today's world?

Another significant symbol in "Young Goodman Brown" is the staff that the old traveler carries made in

...the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent.

Hawthorne himself hints at the devilish connection of the "fellow-traveller" who accompanies Brown by describing him as "he of the serpent." That he is preternatural is also suggested by his allusion to Goodman's father and grandfather, the constable who whipped a Quaker woman.

When the old man offers Goody Cloyse his staff and throws it upon the ground, it "assumed life, being one of the rods which its owner had formerly lent to the Egyptian magi" and it and Goody Cloyse disappear.  Then, after Goodman discovers Faith at the black mass in the forest, he cries out in despair, "My Faith is gone!"; the devilish old man offers Goodman his staff, Goodman grasps it, and "seemed to fly along the forest path rather than to walk or run." This act of Goodman signifies his embracing of sin and evil:

But he was himself the chief horror of the scene, and shrank not from its other horrors.

From then on it is a man without any hope for goodness in anyone that a stern and distrustful Brown is as he perceives the Puritan minister as "a gray blasphemer." Like Adam who also obeyed the serpent, Brown suffers a fall from innocence after he embraces the serpent-like staff.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is a symbol used in "Young Goodman Brown" and how does it relate to today's world?

The symbol of the forest in "Young Goodman Brown" is one where exploration within the individual takes place.  It is a symbol where Goodman Brown enters as one man and leaves as another.  The woods themselves are shown to be a realm where unforeseen and the unknown exist:

He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveler knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.

The initial fears that Brown has of a "devilish Indian" or "the devil himself" are only amplified realities of the description of the forest.  It represents the realm of where the individual is alone, forced to exist only with their own values.  The individual is left to confront almost insurmountable forces.  The further Brown goes into the woods, the more scared he is and the more tentative he is.  The woods claims to have met more of his relatives, reflecting how the woods claims all and is more expansive than the individual can ever know.  The woods is a realm in which Brown is tested and twisted.  What was once believed to be true is open to scrutiny, and totalizing reality is transformed in the face of "the other."  Brown comes to see reality in a much different light because of the woods, a setting where "Evil is the nature of mankind" as a reality displayed to him.  Brown is forever changed as a result of what happens in the woods, forever scarred and never able to quite recover from his experience in it.  The woods makes Brown left "in that saddest of all prisons, his own heart."

I think that an interesting representation of the woods can be the internet.  There are interesting parallels that can emerge.  Like the woods, the internet is widely expansive and its path is far from absolute.  Individuals can literally become lost in the internet just like Brown fears loss in the woods. Given the amount of what is in cyberspace, one can find visions of "the devil" in different forms.  Freedom on the internet can bring an individual directly confronting realities that test one's faith in mankind.  In different settings, the internet can be "all as lonely as could be."  There are many avenues on the information superhighway that embody a sense of loneliness and isolation.  Like Brown himself, the traveller on the internet, "knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead."  So many "hide behind the screen" that the modern individual does not know what threats lurk. The "unseen multitude" who use the internet at any given time enhances its parallel to the forest.  Like Brown's voyage into the woods, one has to be firm and completely resolute in their voyage on the internet. It is so easy to become lost that individuals must be guided by a sense of purpose. While Brown's voyage into the woods is spiritual and his own spiritual understanding is altered as a result, the symbolic function of the internet is much the same. Without a steely resolve, one's beliefs and purpose can become radically transformed.  With the web's potential threats, one can become immersed in a similar "saddest" of prisons.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does "Young Goodman Brown" function as a moral allegory?

The story of "Young Goodman Brown," by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a clear moral allegory.

It is felt that the story was written in reaction to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. One of Hawthorne's ancestors was a judge at the trials—where a pious community became slaves to false allegations and superstition. It was an embarrassing heritage for Hawthorne.

Many of his writings deal with themes that delve into "...evil actions of humans and the idea of original sin." Evil actions by humans is central to the allegory. It's important to understand that an allegory in literature is a story of symbolic importance:

...that serves as a disguised representation for meanings other than those indicated on the surface.

In other words, on the surface, the story being read has a plot, characters, conflict and a resolution. It is a story in its own right. However, in an allegory, elements of the tale have a deeper meaning, symbolizing "moral qualities," etc., with the purpose to relay an additional "hidden" message to the reader.

In "Young Goodman Brown," our main character is a member of a devoutly religious society. (Though not named as Puritans, the parallel is clear.) One day the virtuous Brown leaves his newly-wed wife to travel for some unknown reason into the forest. (The Puritans believed the Devil lived in the forest.)

On his trip, Brown meets an old man who is the Devil in disguise, who secretly wants to get Brown to reject his faith. As they walk, Brown senses evil and tries to distance himself. He remembers his ancestors—holy men—whose memory he calls on to help him. The Devil tells him that they were "in league" with him. Strong religious members of his community pass by, going to a Black Mass. Brown is horrified as his eyes are opened to the wickedness lurking within those closest to him—who he has looked to for inspiration. At last, as he looks on, his wife Faith is brought forth and both are called to join the Devil. Brown tries to yell encouragement to his wife, but in an instant, everyone disappears—and Brown is unsure if it was at all real or just a dream. Now believing that he is surrounded by sinners, his awakening drives Brown to believe there is no good in the word. He rejects his faith and dies a lonely, embittered old man.

The situation that Hawthorne presents here is Brown's inability to accept the fragile nature of the human condition, and the truth that all people are sinful, even Brown himself. However, his expectations of those of the past and those in his life now, do not allow Brown to accept sinfulness as a human trait (even though it is biblically presented: all men are sinners); and, too, he has no compassion. Expecting perfection is impossible; this is something Brown does not grasp, and it does not allow him to forgive others for their shortcomings.

Hawthorne reminds us of the lack of compassion found in the Puritan society—that the promise of the smallest sins was punishment, and no forgiveness was offered, though this was the central message of the New Testament in the person of Christ. The allegorical message here is that all of us are in the same "boat." We all make mistakes: we cannot help it.

Looking to Goodman Brown's fate, we should see that if we can't allow others to be imperfect, we will be lonely, hypocritical and miserable people. We must be realistic and accepting of others who follow a different path—for even then, we can still hold on to what we believe.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the plot, setting, and symbolism in "Young Goodman Brown"?

Although it is hard to nutshell YGM, you can summarize the plot as a man's journey from good through evil, the question of WHAT is good and evil, and the realization of one's own feelings towards it.

The setting is in Salem, where Goodman is about to go out at night to take care of something, to the distress of his wife Faith (that is a symbol, moving from "faith)- Faith is a prudish woman, all the way down to what she wears (pink ribbon on her hair, a symbol of innocence).

When he goes anyway, he meets a stranger in the forest with whom he walks along and whom he suspects of being evil.

We know that this stranger symbolizes sin, or the devil himself, and here's Goodman is walking with him. Along the journey, the man tells him how he's known Goodman's family and other things that start freaking out Goodman, and he starts deciding to go back to Faith. But, its too late b/c in the end of the road there is a Satanic-like ritual taking place in which he sees his dead father, and even Faith herself partaking in it. When the stranger tells him that "everyone" is evil, Goodman loses it and starts screaming, and the entire moment faded in front of him as if it had been an illusion.

However, when he is back in town, in Salem, he doubts everyone, shuns away Faith, and distrusts all the people he once thought were good. He sort of lost his mind, and died a recluse.

So, the symbols include Faith (her name), her pink ribbon, the night to day change of scenery (shadow vs. light), the stranger, Goodman's name itself (good man)- There are many many more symbols, however, since Hawthorne is heavy on them in all his works.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of the names in "Young Goodman Brown"?

In "Young Goodman Brown," Hawthorne uses the names of the two main characters for symbolic and allegorical purposes. Young Goodman Brown's name, for example, helps to establish him as a typical, everyday sort of person. His surname, for instance, is very common. It does not stand out in any way. In addition,  the word, "Goodman," demonstrates that he is well-respected in the community and that he is a good person. The word, "Young," is also symbolic of his youth and innocence.

Similarly, by calling his wife, Faith, Hawthorne implies that she is also a woman of good standing. She is pure, innocent, and devoted to the Puritan faith.

Together, then, they are a typical, well-respected and well-behaved Puritan couple.

Through a combination of the plot and the use of these names, Hawthorne makes the point that anybody, even the most ordinary and pious of people, can be prone to temptation and to the devil's influence. As a result, it transforms the story from a work of fiction to an allegory, a story with a deeper, moral message.    

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of the names in "Young Goodman Brown"?

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.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of the names in "Young Goodman Brown"?

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. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of the names in "Young Goodman Brown"?

The emphasis of Young Goodman Brown's name should be on the Goodman part of it. He is a "good man." He is a man that has faith. The story shows readers this in a very concrete way. Young Goodman Brown is married to a woman named Faith. As the story progresses, Brown meets the Devil and he begins to have his faith in God and in his community shaken. The Devil shows him that people Brown once thought of as deep men and women of faith are actually followers of Satan. The good man of faith that is Brown determines that he will not be shaken because he has strong faith. His Faith (wife) will never be turned; however, the Devil then plays his trump card and shows that Faith is one of his too. Brown has lost his Faith to the Devil. Consequently, because Brown lost Faith, he also loses his faith in everything else.

"My Faith is gone!"

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the allegorical elements in "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

An allegory is a work of fiction in which the symbols, characters, and events come to represent some aspect of its culture. In American literature, allegories have often been used for instructive purposes around Christian themes.  The story has a figurative meaning beneath the literal one: a story with two meanings.  In American literature, the best example of an allegory is “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Written in 1835, the story centers on the loss of innocence.

The story takes place in Salem during the witch crisis and religious disagreements.  The allegory includes Christianity, Satan, and the devil. From the names of the characters to the pink ribbons in Faith’s hair, this is a religious allegory.  The story centers on the journey of Goodman Brown into the woods to meet Satan.  He is an innocent, yet he has made this appointment with the devil for some reason.

The trip itself and the scenes that Goodman Brown encounter are vague and uncertain. Brown leaves his wife to go a meeting with the devil who awaits him.  Brown is late and blames it on his “Faith.”[Faith his wife or faith in his religion

This list of symbols and elements add to the allegorical interpretation of the story:

  • The snakelike staff-The devil offers his staff.  Eventually, this symbol becomes the medical profession symbol.
  • Faith Brown- The references to her by Brown indicate that Brown’s strength comes from his wife.  
  • Faith’s voice- Brown realizes that Faith is in the middle of the witch’s coven.  He speaks: “My Faith is gone!”
  • Faith’s pink ribbons-These indicate her innocence and purity.  When Brown sees them in the wind in the woods, Faith is struggling with her own “faith.”   
  • The basin of water- The basin of water is reddened by the light in the forest or is it blood to be used in the ceremony of witchery.   
  • The list of public figures- Those under the spell of the devil includes Brown’s own family, his teacher, the minister and most of the prominent people in Salem. These were people that Brown thought were righteous in their lives.
  • The black cloud-When Brown looks to the heavens to ask God to intercede for him, a black cloud prevents him from being able to look to the skies.

Hawthorne uses colors to represent various qualities of man: the pink of innocence; the black of evil; the red of the witches’ coven, and gray for those who are caught under the suspicious of evil.

When Brown returns to town, the reader nor Brown is not sure if the previous night’s events were dreams or actual events.

…he [Brown] spied the hand of Faith, with the pink ribbons, gazing anxiously forth, and bursting into such joy at sight of him that she almost kissed her husband before the whole village. But Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a greeting.

Brown turns his back on everything that he had valued and loved the day before.  He changes forever and hardens his heart against everyone.  He looks for corruption behind every bush.  Young Goodman Brown never recognizes that it his soul that has become immoral and blind to God.  

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the allegorical elements in "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

As an allegory, the narrative of "Young Goodman Brown" is an extended metaphor in which the characters are equated to concepts and more significant meanings outside the narrative itself. Here are examples of allegorical elements in Hawthorne's story:

  • Young Goodman Brown - The title of Brown denotes his youth and naivete. He tells his wife Faith,

"my love and my Faith...of all nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee.

Further, he tells the traveler, "...and after this one night I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.

While Brown perceives himself as good, he deceives himself because his is a natural predilection for evil as, once introduced to the devil, he easily finds corruption in the members of the community and rejects his wife Faith, becoming distrustful and miserable.

  • Goody Cloyse and Deacon Goodkin - These names of real people, a witch and a participant in the Salem Witchcraft Trials, represent the sanctimounious Puritan hypocrites who are more guilty of sin than those that they accuse.  Their inherent evil is apparent when they attend the black mass.
  • The forest and the night - The forest and the night represent the darkness that lies in the heart of man, the innate predilection for evil that is in the nature of man.
  • Faith and her pink ribbons The soft and pure Faith and her pink--a color symbolic of innocence--represent the naivete of Brown's own faith in the beginning of the allegory.  When her ribbons waft through the air, they symbolize Brown's loss of innocence and his disillusion.
Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the allegorical elements in "Young Goodman Brown"?

In allegories, characters are representative of certain traits.  For instance, Goody Cloyse, the Catechist, and Deacon Gookin--names of real people who participated in the Salem Witchcraft Trials--go into the forest and participate in the Black Mass.  Thus, they represent the sanctimonious hypocrites among the Puritans.  Young Goodman Brown's name is, of course, ironic.  He certainly perceives himself as good, but his rejection of his wife and others after he has formed his judgment demonstrates his lack of goodness.  For he is the quintessential Puritan that Hawthorne abhors:  he concludes that all human beings are hopelessly corrupt, totally damned, and must, therefore, be rejected. Brown's wife Faith and her pink ribbons represent the naivete of Brown's own faith in the beginning of the allegory.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are some of the symbols present in "Young Goodman Brown"?

Perhaps the most obvious is the forest itself.  It's a dark place, a place without clear paths, a place where you might easily get lost.  In our history, it is often associated with the home of Satan, and the home of the Indians, sometimes seen as Satan's agents. 

There is the symbol of the staff that looks may look like a snake.  The snake is a universal symbol of evil, stemming back from the Bible and the story of The Fall. 

Then there is Faith/faith.  Faith, the person, and faith, the religious belief, are both lost.  Faith is symbolized in the pink ribbon.  Pink is associated with innocence, and the original innocence of Brown's faith is shown in the pink ribbon that Faith wears and that appears falling into the forest just before Brown "wakes up." 

The last word in the story, gloom, mirrors the setting in the forest; instead of leaving the light, travelling through the gloom, and returning to the light (of faith), he never escapes the gloom of the forest.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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

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.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the allegorical elements in "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

The pink ribbons Faith wears in her cap at the very beginning of the story are mentioned three times in the first six paragraphs alone, and so this is a good clue that they are symbolic.  Because Young Goodman Brown is going into the forest to meet the Devil, and because he is clearly relying on Faith's goodness to help redeem him, saying "'after this one night, I"ll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven,'" the pink ribbons seem to be symbolic of her innocence and goodness.  Further, when Brown later sees one of these ribbons on a tree branch near the witches' Sabbath, he cries, "'My Faith is gone!'" linking her ribbons to her innocence once again.  If she is attending the witches' Sabbath, then her innocence surely is as lost as her ribbon is.

Moreover, the old man Brown meets with in the forest carries a staff "which bore the likeness of a great black snake" that seemed so real that it appeared to be a "living serpent."  Because the Devil appeared in the shape of a snake or serpent to Eve in the Garden of Eden, snakes are often symbolic of evil.  This symbolism is appropriate here since we later learn that the old man is the Devil.

In addition, the fact that Brown enters the forest in order to meet with the devil, and because it is the setting for the witches' Sabbath they attend, the forest can be read as a symbol as well: a symbol of temptation, since it is here that Brown and Faith are both tempted by the Devil and all of their peers to join them in sinfulness and vice.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the allegorical elements in "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

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.'"

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the Biblical allusions in "Young Goodman Brown"?

An allusion is a reference to a previous work of literature or art.

One Biblical allusion in "Young Goodman Brown" occurs in the following line:

So saying, he threw it down at her [Goody Cloyse's] feet, where, perhaps, it assumed life, being one of the rods which its owner had formerly lent to the Egyptian Magi.

This alludes to Exodus 7:10-11. In this scene, the Egyptian magicians or Magi throw down their staffs just as Aaron did, and the staffs (rods) become snakes:

When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake. . . . and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts. (Exodus, 7-10-11)

It is notable that the rod thrown down is likened to the Egyptian magis's staff. The magi would be practicing dark ("secret") arts and not performing a miracle as Aaron does.

The word communion also occurs several times. While we tend to think of communion as a church ritual, the first communion took place in the Bible when Jesus broke bread and poured wine, giving these to the disciples and saying "this is my body and blood; eat this in remembrance of me". In the Hawthorne story, however, the communion referred to is with the devil.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the Biblical allusions in "Young Goodman Brown"?

The old man with the serpent-staff is certainly a double allusion to both the serpent in the Garden of Eden and to Moses holding up the serpent on the staff in the desert so that those who have been bitten by poisonous serpents may look up at it and be miraculously healed. However, Hawthorne is being ironic here, since the old man represents the Devil, and his staff does not represent salvation from death but a fall into depravity and sin.

After the old man lends the staff to Goody Cloyse, the narrator mentions that the staff had once been lent to "the Egyptian Magi." This is an allusion to the part in the Book of Exodus where Moses comes to the Egyptian court to work wonders as proof that he has been sent by God and so turns his staff into a snake, only for the Egyptian court magicians to do the same with their staffs. This suggests the old man is, once again, the Devil, who has been working against humanity throughout history. Brown will only be his latest victim.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the Biblical allusions in "Young Goodman Brown"?

The first biblical allusion seen in "Young Goodman Brown" is Brown's wife, Faith. In the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25), the members of Christ's church are those who wait for him to follow him to the wedding. The reference to weddings and marriages are plentiful in the Bible; therefore, a connection can be made with the marriage of Brown to his wife Faith is just like the commitment needed to be strong and faithful in membership of a church. Brown struggles with his loyalty to his wife Faith, justifying that he'll be back in the morning, just like those who would go sin a little and promise that they will be back in church later. Hence, the connection that Brown has with his wife is likened to the connection he has with his God.

The next image that makes reference to the Bible is the staff that the old man is holding which looks like "a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent" (Paragraph 13). One might first think of Moses holding his staff in front of the Pharoh and tossing it to the ground where it changed into a snake and ate other snakes.  But more accurately,  the reference is to the devil in the Garden of Eden who is a serpent (Genesis 3).

There are many more references to Biblical thoughts, ideas, and principles throughout Hawthorne's short story of a man whose curiosity of sin destroys his relationship with his religion. The enotes.com link below provides more answers to your question and the second link is to the story itself.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the Biblical allusions in "Young Goodman Brown"?

When Goodman Brown meets the Devil in the woods, the Devil has a remarkable staff

which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought, that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent.

The Devil actually offers the staff to Brown, since the young man seems already weary. At various times, the staff is described as "twisted" and as appearing to "actually [...] wriggle in sympathy." The Devil touches Goody Cloyse's neck with the end of the staff that "seemed the serpent's tail." He offers the old woman his staff, and then throws it on the ground at her feet. We can likely assume that she picks it up. The narrator says that,

perhaps, it assumed life, being one of the rods which its owner had formerly lent to the Egyptian Magi.

This particular line seems to refer to the book of Exodus, which, in chapters 4-8, God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground, and when Moses does, it turns into a snake. God tells Moses to go to Egypt with his brother Aaron and confront Pharaoh, demanding that he release the Israelites. When Pharaoh demands a miracle, Aaron throws his staff in front of Pharaoh and it changes into a snake (by God's doing), but then Pharaoh calls magicians forth who can do the same thing. The line quoted from Hawthorne's story, above, suggests that the Devil actually loaned those seemingly magic staffs to the Egyptians, supporting the idea that they were on the Devil's side, working against God. In Hawthorne's story, then, anyone who takes possession of the Devil's staff—such as Goody Cloyse and, later, Goodman Brown himself—is putting himself in the same position: refusing God and accepting the Devil in his life instead.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the symbolic meaning of Young Goodman Brown's journey?

Young Goodman Brown's journey can be read as an allegory of the Christian's journey toward eventual salvation or damnation. This is one explanation of why his name is such a common one—Brown—as well as accounts for the double meaning of Goodman: this is the Puritan synonym for "Mister" but also refers to Brown's intention to be a good man

He begins his journey with Faith (his wife, but also a literal representation of a Christian's faith), but he leaves Faith/faith behind him, assuming that she/it will be there whenever he returns. Brown travels into the woods, a dark place outside of the rules of the town, where he is tempted again and again to join with the devil (the older man he meets who possesses the serpent staff—the serpent being a biblical symbol of Satan from Eden). Just like all Christians, Brown is tempted and has an opportunity to turn away from the devil, but he follows him deeper and deeper into the woods, failing to reject temptation over and over again. The devil tries to convince Brown to join him by showing him all the other people from the town who are his friends and explaining how well he has known all of Brown's family and forebears. This touches on a popular Hawthorne theme: that we are all sinners.

When Brown finally arrives at the Witches' Sabbath and understands what it is, he calls out to his "'Faith'" and implores her to "'Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One!'" However, he doesn't know whether she does this or not. Symbolically, it is unclear whether or not Brown can rely on his faith now that he's been willing to abandon it thus far, just as he left his wife, Faith, at home. He ends up dying miserably, never able to trust anyone again, including his wife. He has lost his faith—whether he has seen the true nature of humankind or only what the devil wanted him to see is irrelevant—and he has thus become truly alienated from God.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does Faith symbolize in "Young Goodman Brown"?

Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" is a complex tale of a young Puritan man's decision to leave his wife and village and walk into the surrounding forest. Although the reason for this dangerous journey is ambiguously described first as "his present evil purpose," we learn later that he is taking a walk on the dark side to test his faith in his Puritan belief system, accompanied by a guide who turns out to be Satan. The journey, of course, may actually be taking place in his troubled mind in the form of a dream vision, but for Goodman Brown, the experience is real.

Young Goodman Brown's wife is Faith, whose name serves both to denote her role as wife and as an emblem of a 17th century Puritan's belief system. When she attempts to dissuade Goodman Brown from his journey, we learn that she, too, is troubled:

"Dearest heart," whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, "pr'ythee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in your own bed to-night. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts, that she's afeard of herself, sometimes. Pray, tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year!"

Faith refers here to the Puritan belief that Satan is able to visit dreamers and tempt them into unrighteous behavior because their will power is weakened during sleep, and Faith is expressing her concern that, if left alone, she might succumb to temptation. Hawthorne is cleverly sowing seeds of doubt about Faith's faith before Brown even begins to test his own faith. Hawthorne also implies, with "all the nights in the year," that the journey is taking place on All Hallow's Eve, a night when Satan might be more active than usual. Goodman Brown, however, believes that Faith's belief system is stronger than his, and he assures himself that "Well; she's a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven."

The story culminates at a witches' ceremony in which Goodman Brown believes he encounters Faith, and in an attempt to save her, he cries,

"Faith! Faith!" cried the husband. "Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One!"

In Brown's imagination, his faith and his wife Faith are in equal jeopardy during Brown's experience, and Hawthorne creates additional ambiguity when he notes that "whether Faith obeyed he knew not."

Goodman Brown's wife Faith is, despite the dream vision Brown experiences, the embodiment of a conventional Puritan belief system. Brown's challenging of that belief system, however, is so pervasive that he imputes to Faith his own loss of faith, and, as Hawthorne describes Brown's life following this experience, "they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom."

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does Faith symbolize in "Young Goodman Brown"?

From what I can see, you are referring to Faith, Goodman Brown's wife. In the story, Faith symbolizes piety, decorum, and innocence. In short, she represents everything that is noble and virtuous in Goodman Brown's life.

In everything he does, Goodman Brown thinks of his wife; she is his lodestar or guide. When he leaves for his appointment, he feels a little guilty. After all, he is keeping his fearful errand a secret from his beloved, trusting wife. He berates himself and calls himself a "wretch." To him, Faith is a "blessed angel on earth."

Later, when his companion accuses him of being fifteen minutes late, Goodman Brown asserts that "Faith kept me back a while." Here, Faith represents Goodman Brown's conscience. Deep inside, Goodman Brown suspects that his foolhardy errand will not end well. Yet, he moves forward with a perverse excitement that is foreign to him.

Later he comes to regret his foray into the woods. When he sees the esteemed members of his congregation engaged in witchery, Goodman Brown is inconsolable. Had he stayed home, he would have been "purely and sweetly" sleeping "in the arms of Faith." Goodman Brown is in for a shock, however, when he later spies his beloved Faith in the congregation of "fiend worshippers." 

Because of his experience, Goodman Brown loses his trust in his religious leaders and begins to doubt even his beloved wife. The story reinforces the fragility of faith and the necessity of having a practical mindset about human nature.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does Faith symbolize in "Young Goodman Brown"?

An often overlooked theme in "Young Goodman Brown" (and in "The Minister's Black Veil," "The Birthmark," and other works) is the victimization of the female characters. For example, through no fault of her own, Goodman Brown's wife, Faith, who serves as the symbol of pure and uncomplicated Christian faith in the story, suffers not only the loss of her husband when Brown returns from his vision in the forest but also the loss of all future happiness. Brown's inability to reconcile the internal conflict created by a repressive belief system and normal human desires utterly destroys Faith's happiness for the rest of her life. An analysis of the principal women in "The Minister's Black Veil" and "The Birthmark" will uncover a similar fate.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does the forest symbolize in "Young Goodman Brown"?

In early American Literature, the forest is the home of the strange and threatening (Indians) and is also viewed as the home of the devil (there was probably some relationship to the Indians in their minds). It was the perfect setting for the trip that Brown (may) have made that night.

For a good comparison with the use of the forest, read "The Devil and Tom Walker."

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does the forest symbolize in "Young Goodman Brown"?

The forest setting and the path become increasingly symbolic with details such as " the dark wall of forest, an altar like rock, blazing pines, the strange sinful hymn with all of this bathed in red light. It would seem to be Brown's preoccupation with sin.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does the forest symbolize in "Young Goodman Brown"?

The woods are the physical location in which Brown explores his doubts and opposing desires, and as such represent his personal hell. Although Brown eventually leaves the physical location of the woods, mentally he stays there for the rest of his life.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Is "Young Goodman Brown" an allegory or merely symbolic?

Young Goodman Brown is more allegorical than it is just symbolic. An allegory is a story that represents an ideology or part of the human condition that readers can relate to and apply to their own lives. So, in a way, it could be considered a parable-type story; however, it is filled with many symbols that help to convey the message being sent by the author as he describes the Puritan society in which Brown finds himself. It would seem that the point of the story is to satirize the society for believing in God, but not believing in mercy or forgiveness, too because Brown strays from Faith (Wife and symbol of commitment to religion) out of curiosity that many do. Sadly, he does not invoke the teachings of mercy and forgiveness because he dies a bitter man because of the experience.  The deep, dark secrets that he discovers on that fateful night not only awaken his mind to the realities of "evil" but that no one can escape the temptations of the devil. This is clearly a satirical allegory written in a Christian country to a Christian audience.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How is Goodman Brown's name symbolic in the story?

"Goodman" was a title used at that time to designate the "master" of a household. Beyond this neutral meaning, Hawthorne uses it as symbol of Brown's inherent goodness, at least at the start of the tale. He is a good man seduced by the mysterious stranger into the excursion through the forest that changes Brown's view of other people, and thus everything in his life.

Brown is convinced by the visions he is shown that the whole world is evil. The title of "Goodman" then becomes both ironic and a continuing symbol of Brown's intended perfectionism and of his judgement of others. The whole message of not only this story, but much of Hawthorne's work overall, is arguably that since no one in the world is perfect, no individual has a right to condemn others. In doing just that, including the rejection of his wife Faith (also with an obviously metaphorical name), Goodman Brown takes the wrong path, and in his supposed goodness and purity he now embodies the opposite of those concepts.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How is Goodman Brown's name symbolic in the story?

Young Goodman Brown is a young, good man with a common last name.  With this name, Hawthorne uses Brown as a representation of every young, good and average man in early Puritan America. Brown is normal; and with that normality, he is curious. The curiosity he feels leads to being tempted away from what he knows is good and true (Faith, his wife, who is also symbolic to the relationship that one must have with his God). Being young is a quality assiciated with inquisitiveness; but, being a good man places him in a situation where good men shouldn't be found. The youthful character of the name, along with the average application of the name to any one of us, gives the name a common ground upon which the average reader can relate and understand the moral of the story.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How is "Young Goodman Brown" an allegory?

"Young Goodman Brown" can be read as an allegory of the Christian soul and what happens when the soul chooses to turn away from God -- for even the briefest amount of time.  Goodman is the Puritan Mister, but it also seems symbolic of Brown's potential for goodness, should he make the right decisions.  Likewise, Brown is such a common surname that it helps the character to seem like a kind of everyman figure. 

Goodman Brown's wife's name is Faith, and she symbolizes his Christian faith in God.  However, he chooses to abandon her at home, leaving his faith behind him.  He even says that "'after this one night, [he'll] cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.'"  But this is not how faith works: the truly faithful do not abandon their faith when it suits them.  When Goodman Brown abandons his faith, planning to have just one more sinful night, he makes a mistake that he can never fix. 

A Christian cannot abandon his or her faith and then expect it to be waiting  whenever they decide to be faithful and good again.  Although one might fail, a dedication to always trying to remain faithful and avoid sin is required.  However, because Brown abandons his faith, he is never again able to reclaim it, and he spends the rest of his life in misery and solitude, separated even from God.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How is "Young Goodman Brown" an allegory?

This story is an allegory representing the path of a Christian on his way to salvation or damnation. Goodman Brown represents this "every Christian" sort of character; his surname—Brown—is a very common one for this reason.

While this text seems to support the idea that every person is capable of sin, it also appears to confirm the idea that life is comprised of a series of choices where we must consciously and continually strive to avoid temptation and choose a righteous and faithful path. Goodman Brown could choose not to go into the forest, as his wife asks, but he goes anyway. He has many opportunities to turn back, but he never does. He consistently chooses temptation. 

Brown's wife, Faith, stands in for Christian faith, the faith which Brown abandons when he leaves her at home to go into the forest. He doesn't intend to abandon his faith (or his wife, Faith) forever, just for one night, and then he plans to "'cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.'" In other words, he doesn't want to do the hard work of living a righteous life, constantly turning away from sin. Instead, he wants to embrace sin for a time and then resume his faith, as though this is something a good Christian can do. The story shows that either a person has faith or does not; we cannot pick and choose when we want to exercise faith and when we want to conveniently leave it behind in order to satisfy some sinful desire. By consciously abandoning his faith, Brown alienates himself from God, showing that when any Christian behaves in such a way, his or her spiritual life will be likewise ruined. Even when Brown tries to go back, he cannot; the remainder of his life is miserable. He can no longer find joy because he turned his back on God.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How is "Young Goodman Brown" an allegory?

“Young Goodman Brown” is an allegory of the temptation to do wrong instead of right in life.

“Young Goodman Brown” is an allegory of man’s journey through life.  As the title character walks through the woods, he begins relatively innocuously but not a clean slate. 

From the very beginning, Goodman makes a choice. Instead of staying with his wife, he chooses his journey.  He is steadfast, but he does feel guilty for leaving her alone when she begs him to stay.  This represents the ties that bind us in our quest for independence.  Sometimes we break free of them anyway.  Hawthorne would seem to indicate that this is not the best choice, given what happens to Brown.  His purpose is described as “evil.”

As Brown is traveling through the forest he comes upon an old man who has a devilish air (literally), but also looks kind of like Brown.  The reader would do good to remember that Brown chose this journey.  He is described as looking to meet up with someone.  He seems to know that he is going to make a deal with the Devil.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is when Brown says that his father would have never gone on this kind of an errand, and the old man sets him straight.

"Such company, thou wouldst say," observed the elder person, interpreting his pause. "Well said, Goodman Brown! I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that's no trifle to say…”

It turns out that the Brown family fortune was made with similar deals with the Devil, and this Brown is just following in their footsteps.  It brings to mind the old nature versus nurture debate.  Do we really make our own choices in life, or are they made for us?  Did Brown set out in the woods to make a deal with the Devil, or was the choice made for him long ago, by his father and his father before him?

The choices we make in life are our own, whatever influences them.  Brown made his own, there in those woods.  Hawthorne ends his tale with Goodman Brown losing everything.  He lives a life of bitterness, seeing the Devil in everything.  He can get no pleasure from life any longer, and sees in everyone around him the capacity for evil.  

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of key characters in "Young Goodman Brown"?

Hawthorne introduces so many of the townspeople on the way to the orgy or in attendance there because he wants to create the impression that everybody is secretly evil and in league with the Devil. They include the leading citizens, those who are noted for their piety and integrity and even instruct others in the observance of traditional religion. Young Goodman Brown and his wife Faith are novices. They are there as "converts" to be initiated into the established body of secret sinners and  "fiend worshippers."

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of key characters in "Young Goodman Brown"?

Young Goodman Brown is not necessarily as "good" a man as his name entails. His trip into the forest is never clarified, but he joins others in attending what might be a witch's coven, and although he renounces it, the fact remains that he went; his heart, which may have been flawed, becomes fully broken by the experience, but he did not seek to leave until his revelation.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of key characters in "Young Goodman Brown"?

Something else to consider is how the setting affects these significant characters. How does the time and place impact Brown's choices and those of the other characters. In modern times, we have very different perspectives on religion and the Devil.
Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of key characters in "Young Goodman Brown"?

Put yourself in Brown's shoes as he is shocked at how many people he sees on the same trail that he knows and has looked up to during his life.  He went into the woods out of curiosity, but finds that there are so many other people whom he respected and loved. This is quite traumatizing to him to the point that he is bitter for the rest of his life. Each character that he meets from his own life drives his disappointment deeper, even though he himself is there! The devil will be evil no matter what; that's not a surprise, but finding people that you thought were better than that doing the same thing or worse is just dishearetening!

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of key characters in "Young Goodman Brown"?

You might want to consider how characters help to identify the allegorical significance of the story. The names for example of the characters indicate the way in which their importance relates to the kind of concepts or qualities that they stand for. Faith is an obvious example, and it is key that it is when Goodman Brown (another important name) deserts Faith, literally leaving her behind, that he encounters the Devil and sees what he sees.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of key characters in "Young Goodman Brown"?

The Devil is an intriguing character in this story.  You may want to ask yourself to what extent the devil is present as a tempter and to what extent Brown is responsible for his own problems. You may also want to ask yourself to what extent (if at all) the devil may only be a figment of Brown's own imagination. Finally, you may want to ask yourself in what ways Brown himself becomes a kinde of evil figure by the end of the story. The devil may only have been a dream, but Brown's malevolent behavior at the end of the tale seems all too real.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of key characters in "Young Goodman Brown"?

Faith and Young Goodman Brown are the key characters in the story, as it is the story of Brown's travels into the woods one night on a mysterious "mission" that changes, forever, his understanding of everyone around him. Brown's wife's name is Faith, and each time it is used in the story it is used as a pun on having religious faith. Brown leaves Faith and his faith at home one night as he heads out to a meeting with the devil who promises insight into the "secret heart of men." Brown is all but determined to turn away from the Devil when he sees what he perceives to be Faith's pink hair ribbons. Once he sees that even his sweet wife is a sinful follower of evil, he goes forward to give in, but at the last minute saves his soul and walks away. The problem is, even though he saves his soul, he is forever changed in his views of everyone else he thinks he saw at the witch's meeting that fateful evening. He ends up a bitter man.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How is "Young Goodman Brown" an allegory?

"Young Goodman Brown" is an example of allegory in that everything in the story is symbolic or representative of something else. In this case, Young Goodman Brown's name is the first allegorical symbol to a man who does good deeds. When he leaves his wife, Faith, to go into the forest, we also see the connection between his wife's name and his detour from his usual goodness and good faith. As he walks in the forest, he meets the devil  himself, witnesses acts of witchcraft and satanism, and sees his elders, his wife and a myriad of others in the path of hell. This journey through the forest is also representative of a mind about to go in his own personal hell, and who will abandon his good ways. The insanity in the end of the story can be interpreted as Young Goodman Brown's fall from grace, and as a lesson on the emptiness and loneliness that surges after one has abandoned the ways of God.  In its entirety the story is quite allegorical.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on