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Nathaniel Hawthorne is an author that specializes in writing stories with creative symbolism as well as allegory. Hawthorne does not fail to achieve this in his short story, “Young Goodman Brown.” Throughout the short story, Hawthorne utilizes certain elements through symbolism and allegory to depict to the reader the basis of the plot, losing one’s righteousness and crossing over to a world of darkness. The protagonist of the story, Goodman Brown, is a “young” (7) puritan that goes on a journey to discover his self. Hawthorne conveys to the reader Goodman Brown’s journey and how evil is the nature of mankind through the use of symbolism in diction, symbolism of the forest, archetypes used, and allegorical elements throughout the story.


From the title of the story, “Young Goodman Brown,” it is inferred that the protagonist is obviously a “young” (7) man named, Goodman Brown, but with close observation through symbolism, the title, in fact holds more weight than just the obvious observation. The word “young” emphasizes the youthfulness of Goodman Brown and his innocence in the beginning of the story. “Goodman” represents the good within the protagonist and the conflict between good and evil throughout the story. And the word “Brown,” also represents faithfulness, trust, earthiness/nature, autumn, sorrow, melancholy, and barrenness. Just from the symbolism of diction in the title of the story, much can be surmised of what the basis of the plot is in, “Young Goodman Brown.”


What is the significance of the forest in “Young Goodman Brown?” The forest represents the loss of Goodman Brown’s faith or loss of his guiding light. When Goodman Brown leaves his wife, Faith, he journeys through “a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest” (7). Goodman Brown fearlessly strides into the “lonely” (7) forest and does not know what is “concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead” (7). This concealment by the forest is merely a representation of Goodman Brown’s doubt and ignorance of the evils that lie ahead. Even Goodman Brown’s father or grandfather never “went into the woods on such an errand” (7), but with the persuasion of his “elder” (7) companion, Goodman Brown surrenders his doubts and continues on into the “gloomy” (7) forest. While traversing deeper into the forest, Goodman Brown overhears two ministers conversing “and the voices, talking so strangely in the empty air, passed on through the forest, where no church had ever been gathered or solitary Christian prayed” (40). Surprised by what these two ministers were doing in the forest, Goodman Brown began “doubting whether there really was a heaven above him” (40). Later on in the story, the forest will reveal itself to be the nesting grounds of evil, the source that questions and ultimately determines Goodman Brown’s capacity for good and evil.


Archetypes existing in the story are an integral element that helps to depict Goodman Brown’s slow but sure dehumanization. The main archetype in the story is the day and night process, which symbolizes birth, maturity, and then death, or in Goodman Brown’s situation, his loss of faith. In the beginning of the story, Goodman Brown sets off on his journey during sunset, which represents death in the archetypal dictionary. His wife, Faith, is even worried about him leaving so abruptly and tells him, “prithee put off your journey until sunrise and sleep in your own bed tonight” and since Goodman Brown denies her request, Faith, tells him to “go to bed at dusk, and no harm will come to thee” (7). Faith tells him to put his journey off till sunrise so he will be safe from the dark and tells him to go to bed at dusk to avoid encountering the darkness and evil.


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The major allegory that Hawthorne clearly indicates to the reader is the allegory with Goodman Brown’s wife, Faith. Not only does, Faith, represent his wife, but it also represents his own faith and every reference he makes is referring to his own faith. “My love and my Faith, of all nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee” (7), explains Goodman Brown’s need to go on a journey to discover his self and to determine if his faith is strong enough to remain with him. As Goodman Brown is leaving for his journey, “he looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeing after him” (7). Even as he is leaving, only a fraction of his faith remains “peeping” at him, which indicates Goodman Brown’s gradual loss of his own faith. Goodman Brown’s response to his fellow traveler when regarded as being late was, “Faith kept me back a while,” (8) emphasizes Goodman Brown’s reluctance to take the journey to the forest. While in the forest as Goodman Brown sees the pink ribbon floating down from a branch of a tree, he grabs it and yells, “My faith is gone” (41). Goodman Brown no longer possesses his faith and has permanently lost it in the forest.


The capacity of good and evil within us all is what Goodman Brown faces while on his journey into the forest. Hawthorne describes Goodman Brown’s journey through the use of allegory and symbolism throughout the story. Not only does the symbols and allegory in the story help to explain Goodman Brown’s struggle to keep his faith, but it also explains that “evil is the nature of mankind” (4). The struggle Goodman Brown endures is portrayed through the use of symbolism of diction and of the forest and through the use of allegorical and archetypal elements in the story. In the end, Goodman Brown’s faith is lost and the reader discovers that “the fiend in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man” (41).





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