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The Woods of Symbols: What is What in the Way of Losing Faith in Humanity in “Young Goodman Brown”


Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” illustrates the journey of a young man going into the woods and losing his faith in humankind. Hawthorne utilizes the stories of the communion of Goodman Brown and Faith in order to represent that a loss of innocence is eminent, a loss that is highlighted by the meaning found within the woods. The woods are, in their simplest state, a force of evil; there an ominous visitor bearing the disposition of Satan lurks and reliable members of society are represented as being deceptive and base. However, the woods are not just a car for incontestable, unambiguous sin. Although the woods are not wicked in their own right, their course has actually lead directly to sin and corruption on all celebrations. The woods, for that reason, represent the typically enticing primal advises and desires of mankind to which every person need to eventually fall prey; the course, the personnel, and the pink ribbons serve as signs within the narrative to manifest the way in which desire runs within a rigid spiritual worldview.

The path on which Goodman Brown treads represents his conscience or his ethical compass. The path is the only thing that separates himself from the woods or his desires, although it proves to be undependable. Hawthorne explains, “He had actually taken a dreary 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 path as being overrun by trees and barely noticeable to the wanderer; apart from the woods, the path would be clear. In the same method, Goodman Brown’s morals are clouded only when he is presented to his human desires. Later the course dissipates entirely, leaving Goodman Brown without any idea of what is ideal and incorrect. After Goodman Brown has actually lost his faith and has succumbed to his fate within the woods, Hawthorne explains, “The roadway grew wilder and drearier and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still hurrying onward with the instinct that guides mortal male to evil.” Once Goodman Brown is deep enough within his desires, he is no longer tethered by the inhibitions the path represents. The course that as soon as was his only sense of security ultimately fails him just as it had failed those who came prior to him and he is left prey to humanity.

The symbolism of the path likewise bears spiritual implications; Hawthorne deliberately utilizes the word “narrow” to explain the path that Goodman Brown follows. The path, more particularly, represents the morals and rules that are instated by narrow worldview of the church. In explaining Goodman Brown’s journey along the path as being “as lonely as might be”, Hawthorne alludes to the isolation that the church instills in its members. Goodman Brown feels alone just as pious members of the church think that they are alone in their battle versus temptation due to the fact that the church condemns and represses the idea of sinful desire instead of acknowledging it as a human experience. The spiritual undertone adds more weight to the earlier mention of the path’s disappearance. Goodman Brown depends on religious beliefs to conserve him, however in the end even piety is not strong enough to avert human nature.

There is also spiritual images and significance within the personnel of the ominous tourist that” [bears] the similarity of a terrific black snake, so oddly wrought that it might practically be seen to twist and twitch itself like a living serpent.” The snake is most typically utilized within religious, biblical contexts as a recommendation to Satan as the tempter in the story of Adam and Eve. Hawthorne utilizes the personnel likewise in “Young Goodman Brown” by making it a sign of temptation that manifests its effects. Upon very first meeting him, the tourist persuades Goodman Brown saying, “Take my staff, if you are so quickly tired,” yet he refrains and has the ability to keep to the path and his morals. Later, with a new personnel, the visitor insists once again, “when you feel like moving again, there is my personnel to help you along,” and Goodman Brown obliges. A personnel, by its nature, is a way of assistance. The tourist provides it as such, declaring that it will ease him of his weariness. The staff is, for that reason, an ideal representation of temptation since well-masked temptation declares that providing into desire is merely a method of coping and making life more manageable.

The traveler’s claims show to be legitimate; when Goodman Brown is in ownership of the personnel, the journey he takes is much more workable and uncomplicated. Hawthorne describes that he has the ability to take a trip “at such a rate that he seemed to fly along the forest path instead of to walk or run.” The staff, similar to temptation, was the necessary intermediate action to bridge the gap in between curiosity and involvement. The journey may have been made easier, nevertheless, in his dependence and ease, Goodman Brown loses the course he previously promised to follow far from the woods and permits himself to be led rather to the alter. Symbolically, the morals he formerly held close are lost when he lets himself provide into temptation, a representative that ultimately leads him to accept 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 translated as an adornment that disguises the ugly reality of humanity. Faith is illustrated as being a pure female and a “blessed angel on earth” directly from the mouth of Goodman Brown. As soon as he goes into the woods, nevertheless, he discovers that she is simply as tainted and corrupt as the rest of mankind. Right before he is baptized into his “race”, he notifications a pink ribbon “captured on the branch of a tree”. He cries out, “My Faith is gone!”, describing both his spouse and the commitment to his faith, because he recognizes that religious beliefs is merely a device used by humankind to sidetrack from the cruel nature of the world. Underneath the adornment of her piety and her Puritan dedication, or her “pink ribbons”, Faith is simply another wicked soul. This discovery is what leads him to state, “There is no excellent in the world; and sin is but a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given.” He turns down Faith upon returning house since he acknowledges her pink ribbons for their masking homes and understands that religious beliefs does not exempt anyone from menstruation of mankind.

The symbols in “Young Goodman Brown” eventually serve to convey faith’s inability to prevent human nature. In entering into the woods, Goodman Brown pertains to realize that all of mankind is at the mercy of their desires in spite of piety or morality. The course of regimented religious beliefs he follows can not withstand the woods. The personnel of temptation he wields might provide him support but it can only lead him deeper into the wicked woods. The pink ribbons he finds can no longer camouflage corroded mankind for what it genuinely is. Hawthorne uses these devices in order to show the useless job of imposing religious beliefs in a race ruled by desire.

Works Cited

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

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