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Symbolism in “Young Goodman Brown” Nicole Feste College


Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” illustrates the journey of a young man going into the woods and losing his faith in mankind. Hawthorne uses the stories of the communion of Goodman Brown and Faith in order to depict that a loss of innocence is noteworthy, a loss that is shown by the importance found within the woods. The woods are, in their simplest state, a force of evil; there an ominous tourist bearing the personality of Satan lurks and reliable members of society are portrayed as being deceptive and base. However, the woods are not simply a car for incontestable, unambiguous sin. Although the woods are not wicked in their own right, their course has actually lead straight to sin and corruption on all events. The woods, for that reason, represent the typically enticing primal urges and desires of humankind to which every person should eventually fall victim; the path, the personnel, and the pink ribbons serve as signs within the story to manifest the method which desire operates within a rigid spiritual worldview.

The course on which Goodman Brown treads represents his conscience or his moral compass. The course is the only thing that separates himself from the woods or his desires, although it proves to be undependable. Hawthorne describes, “He had taken a gloomy roadway, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed instantly behind.” Hawthorne illustrates the course as being overrun by trees and barely noticeable to the wanderer; apart from the woods, the path would be clear. In the same way, Goodman Brown’s morals are clouded just once he is introduced to his human desires. Later on the path dissipates entirely, leaving Goodman Brown without any idea of what is ideal and incorrect. After Goodman Brown has actually lost his faith and has actually succumbed to his fate within the woods, Hawthorne describes, “The road grew wilder and drearier and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward with the instinct that guides mortal guy to evil.” When Goodman Brown is deep enough within his desires, he is no longer tethered by the inhibitions the path represents. The path that as soon as was his only complacency ultimately fails him simply as it had failed those who came prior to him and he is left prey to humanity.

The symbolism of the course also bears religious implications; Hawthorne deliberately utilizes the word “narrow” to explain the course that Goodman Brown follows. The course, more particularly, represents the morals and guidelines that are instated by narrow worldview of the church. In describing Goodman Brown’s journey along the course as being “as lonesome as might be”, Hawthorne alludes to the seclusion that the church instills in its members. Goodman Brown feels alone just as pious members of the church believe that they are alone in their battle against temptation due to the fact that the church condemns and quelches the idea of wicked desire rather than acknowledging it as a human experience. The religious connotation includes more weight to the earlier reference of the path’s disappearance. Goodman Brown depends on faith to save him, but in the end even piety is not strong enough to evade humanity.

There is also spiritual images and importance within the staff of the threatening tourist that” [bears] the likeness of a fantastic black snake, so strangely enough wrought that it may almost be seen to twist and twitch itself like a living snake.” The snake is most frequently utilized within religious, biblical contexts as a recommendation to Satan as the tempter in the story of Adam and Eve. Hawthorne uses the staff similarly in “Young Goodman Brown” by making it a sign of temptation that manifests its impacts. Upon very first meeting him, the tourist convinces Goodman Brown stating, “Take my personnel, if you are so soon tired,” yet he refrains and has the ability to keep to the path and his morals. Later on, with a brand-new personnel, the tourist insists again, “when you seem like moving again, there is my personnel to assist you along,” and Goodman Brown requires. A staff, by its nature, is a means of support. The visitor provides it as such, claiming that it will alleviate him of his weariness. The personnel is, therefore, a best representation of temptation since well-masked temptation declares that giving into desire is merely a way of coping and making life more manageable.

The traveler’s claims prove to be valid; as soon as Goodman Brown remains in possession of the staff, the journey he takes is far more manageable and simple and easy. Hawthorne explains that he has the ability to travel “at such a rate that he seemed to fly along the forest course rather than to walk or run.” The personnel, much like temptation, was the essential intermediate step to bridge the gap in between curiosity and involvement. The journey might have been made easier, nevertheless, in his reliance and ease, Goodman Brown loses the path he previously pledged to follow far from the woods and enables himself to be led instead to the change. Symbolically, the morals he formerly held close are lost as soon as he lets himself provide into temptation, an agent that eventually leads him to yield to his human desire.

Finally, Faith’s pink ribbons in “Young Goodman Brown” are typically referred to as being a representation of Goodman Brown’s loss of faith. Although this claim stands, the ribbons can also be interpreted as an accessory that disguises the unsightly reality of human nature. Faith is depicted as being a pure lady and a “blessed angel on earth” directly from the mouth of Goodman Brown. When he goes into the woods, nevertheless, he discovers that she is just as tainted and corrupt as the rest of mankind. Prior to he is baptized into his “race”, he notifications a pink ribbon “captured on the branch of a tree”. He weeps out, “My Faith is gone!”, referring to both his partner and the dedication to his religious beliefs, due to the fact that he understands that religion is simply a device utilized by humanity to sidetrack from the vicious nature of the world. Beneath the adornment of her piety and her Puritan commitment, or her “pink ribbons”, Faith is merely another sinful soul. This discovery is what leads him to say, “There is no good on earth; and sin is however a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world offered.” He rejects Faith upon returning home since he recognizes her pink ribbons for their masking residential or commercial properties and understands that religious beliefs does not exempt anybody from menstruation of humanity.

The symbols in “Young Goodman Brown” ultimately serve to communicate faith’s failure to prevent human nature. In entering into the woods, Goodman Brown concerns realize that all of humanity is at the grace of their desires in spite of piety or morality. The course of regimented faith he follows can not withstand the woods. The personnel of temptation he wields might offer him support however it can only lead him deeper into the sinful woods. The pink ribbons he discovers can no longer camouflage corroded humanity for what it genuinely is. Hawthorne uses these gadgets in order to illustrate the useless job of enforcing faith in a race ruled by desire.

Works Mentioned

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. Boston, MA: New England Magazine, 1835. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

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