The Use of Allegory and Symbolism in “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
An allegory is a story that has a second meaning beneath the surface, endowing a cluster of characters, objects, or events with added significance. “Young Goodman Brown”, a story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is an allegory, and a fantasy. The story has many different symbols good and bad; such as light symbolizing purity and the darkness symbolizing evil. Each symbol plays and important role to create the story. Young Goodman Brown takes a journey into the woods and throughout his journey he encounters different characters and learns new things. His journey symbolizes a journey into his own heart and life.
The story starts off with Young Goodman Brown saying goodbye to his wife Faith. She wishes him a good trip. “Then God bless you!” said Faith with the pink ribbons, “and may you find all well when you come back.” Her pink ribbon symbolizes females, and passion and purity. As Brown makes his way down the path he starts to think of all of the evil things that could be lurking in the forest with him. “There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree,” said Goodman Brown to himself: as he glanced fearfully behind him, as he added, “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow.” Brown keeps walking and sees a figure of a man. The man tells Goodman Brown that he is late and Brown replies saying that Faith kept him back a while. Brown’s wife Faith symbolizes religious faith. The man looks like him which means that he could be an ancestor of Brown or Brown in the future. The man was also carrying a staff. “But the only thing about him that could be fixed upon as remarkable was his 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 snake.” The staff resembles a serpent, and religiously snakes are sought to resemble evil, hence Satan. As they continue down the path the man offers Goodman Brown the staff, saying that it may enable him to walk quicker, yet Goodman Brown mentions that he wouldn’t like to come in contact with the staff. He says that he appeared for their gathering since he guaranteed to, but Brown wants to go back to the town. He tells the man that his relatives have been Christians and great individuals for ages. The man reveals to Brown that he knew his dad and granddad, just as different individuals from different churches. This new information confuses Brown and he tells the man that he wants to return for Faith’s sake. After that the two travelers come across an old lady.
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Brown and the man cross paths with a female on the path, “In whom Goodman Brown recognized as a very pious and exemplary dame.” Goody Cloyse is the woman, and Brown decides to take her through the woods safely while the stranger continues down the path. Brown heard Goody “mumbling some indistinct words, a prayer, as she went.” The man taps Cloyse on the shoulder and she identifies him as the devil. She then reveals herself to be a witch, and that she was on her way to the devil’s evil forest ceremony. Despite this, Brown tells the man that he still plans to turn back, for Faith’s sake. Before vanishing, the man gives Goodman Brown his staff, telling him that he can use it to transport to the ceremony if he changes his mind. “And when you feel like moving again, there is my staff to help you along.” As Brown is sitting down he hears horses and hides. He heard it was two men from church talking about the meeting and how they wouldn’t want to miss it. “I had rather miss an ordination dinner than to-night’s meeting. They tell me that some of our community are to be here from Falmouth and beyond, and others from Connecticut and Rhode Island; besides several of the Indian powwows, who, after their fashion, know almost as much deviltry as the best of us. Moreover, there is a goodly young woman to be taken into communion.” Brown is so struck by this. “He looked up to the sky, doubting whether there really was a Heaven above him.” “With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” cried Goodman Brown” Soon Brown hears voices being carried by the wind. The voices started to become louder as if he was in the Salem village. He hears a voice belonging to Faith. “Faith!” shouted Goodman Brown, in a voice of agony and desperation; and the echoes of the forest mocked him, crying — “Faith! Faith!” as if bewildered wretches were seeking her, all through the wilderness.” Brown is so upset with the news.
Brown sees a pink ribbon caught in a tree and cries that his Faith is gone. His Faith being gone can mean that it’s his wife that is gone or his religious faith that is gone. “My Faith is gone!” cried he, after one stupefied moment. “There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil! For to thee is this world given.” Brown was maddened with despair and grabbed the staff to continue his journey. He seemed to fly along the path listening to the frightful sounds and laughing. Brown is the most frightful thing in the forest. When he reaches where the ceremony is taking place, the trees around it are on fire, and he can see the faces of various respected members of the community. He doesn’t see Faith, and starts to hope that she isn’t there. Goodman Brown thinks he sees his father beckoning him forward and his mother trying to hold him back. Before he can rethink his decision, the minister and Gookin drag him forward. Cloyse and Martha Carrier bring in another person. She is covered and appears to be unknown. Brown sees that the other convert is Faith. Brown tells Faith to look up to heaven and resist the wicked, then suddenly finds himself alone in the forest. The next morning Goodman Brown returns to Salem Village, and every person he passes seems evil to him. Finally, he sees Faith at his own house and refuses to greet her. Whether the encounter in the forest was a dream or not: Goodman Brown is changed for the rest of his life. He doesn’t trust anyone in his village, can’t believe the words of the minister, and doesn’t fully love his wife. He lives the remainder of his life in gloom and fear.
Young Goodman Brown is a story filled with many symbols such as demons being symbolic of internal struggles. His journey into the woods represents a journey into his own heart because he sees himself. There is an older man in the woods representing him in the future. Faith is gone or appears to be gone resembling how his religious faith also appears to be gone. Brown should have been relying on his faith but since he didn’t he suffered for the rest of his life not trusting anyone anymore.