Young Goodman Brown Allegory


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“Young Goodman Brown” functions as an allegory of the fall of man, from which Hawthorne draws to illustrate what he sees as the inherent fallibility and hypocrisy in American religion. Hawthorne sets up a story of a man who is tempted by the devil and succumbs because of his curiosity and the weakness of his faith.

Young Goodman Brown Allegory

The Allegorical Elements in “Young Goodman Brown”



Nathaniel Hawthorne is deemed to be the greatest of America's anti-transcendental writers. His writing is especially noted for its redolent symbolism and psychological probing into the darker sides of human heart, especially guilt and sin.Young Goodman Brown is one of Hawthorne’s most significant short stories in which his preoccupation with the effects of guilt and sin are combined with a continued emphasis on symbolism and allegory. The story is an allegorical journey of a newlywed man who is walking toward spiritual crises, hand in hand with the devil himself. Set in Salem about the time of the Salem witchcraft trials, it provides the backdrop to a weird journey into the dark forest and the darkness of human heart as well.

All the characters, objects and settings in the story have allegorical significance since they represent abstract ideas. The names of the first two characters introduced in the story, Young Goodman Brown and his wife Faith, are both symbolic. Brown stands for man’s hereditary predilection to evil. He represents everyman’s inherent propensity to evil. His wife Faith stands for true Christian faith and virtue. Brown’s marriage to Faith symbolises that he clings to a faith in good in the world. The pink ribbon worn in Faith’s hair serves as an emblem of heavenly faith. Later in the story, when Brown meets his companion in the woods, he declares, “Faith kept me back awhile”. Here, Hawthorne uses the name of Brown’s wife as a symbol for Brown’s personal faith in goodness. At this point in the story, Brown’s conscious is keeping him from embracing the evil ways of his companion. The image that Hawthorne creates of Brown putting his head back across the threshold of his house to kiss his wife goodbye symbolises Brown’s reservations of surrendering to the devil’s evil ways. Brown does, despite his vacillating conscious, surrender to an impulse to follow an evil path and begin his journey into the woods. In old times, the forest was considered a place of evil so Brown’s errand in a dense forest suggests that he is up to somethig bad.

Brown’s journey through the forest is on a narrow, dark, and dull path. The darkness and dreariness symbolise the evil that hides in the forest. The narrowness of the path symbolises that Brown is surrounded by evil. The idea that Brown may never return to the state of innocence from which he came is suggested by the fact that the woods seem to close immediately behind him. The trail being long and windy symbolises how far Brown’s conscious must travel from innocence to realise the evil in his world.

In the forest, Brown meets his companion, a character who symbolises the devil. He is about fifty years old and his appearance resembles Young Goodman Brown so much that he has been called the elder Goodman Brown. The devil appears as an image of his own evil or dark side. Allegorically the devil stands for Goodman Brown’s hereditary predilection to evil. This idea of evil past, present and future is just another example of the allegorical nature the story has in relation to the Fall of Man. It is Hawthorne's intention to display the sin that we have all inherited through Adam and Eve, and to bring greater understanding as to the psychosexual, religiously symbolic and historical pretexts that made events like the Salem witch trials occur in our history. The elder Goodman Brown gives us an allusion to Moses, the prophet of the Jews, whose staff could become a serpent at his will. It indicates that here Hawthorne’s intention is to mock at all religious figures, and all things are associated with religion through the presentation of the elder Brown as a devil. The devil offers Brown his walking staff that is described as having “the likeness of a great black snake”. The snake-like appearance of the staff symbolises the cunning and treacherous character of Young Goodman Brown’s companion, who often takes the shape of a serpent. Brown’s rejection of the staff symbolises Brown’s reluctance to surrender to the evil in the world.

Goodman Brown sees his forefathers as symbols of honest and good Christian men, but as the devil tells Brown that he has been well acquainted with his family, his forefathers become symbols of people that embody the evil that surrounds Brown. The devil tells Brown that he has a general acquaintance with the people of New England. Then Brown saw Goody Cloyse, who taught him catechisms. But now she is an embodiment of evil, a witch. With this Brown feels a conflict within his mind and refuses to follow the elder and go back to his wife Faith. This indicates his endeavour to stay away from evil and keep faith in good. The elder then leaves him, giving him a maple branch. Brown’s acceptance of the newly-made staff from the devil hurries along the same evil path of his contemporaries. The staff symbolises a tool of evil, and Brown’s accepting it represents his beginning to accept the evil in his world. He then gets much more confused when he sees all the so-called good men like – the minister and deacon Gookin being evil. Another symbol of Brown’s new commitment to evil is the pink ribbon that he catches falling from the sky. The ribbon symbolises Faith’s conversion into the evil and Brown’s loss of faith in good.

We observe that Goodman Brown resisted the temptation of evil more than once and preserved his mental strength to stand against evil till he found that his faithful wife has become evil. But Faith’s conversion to evil shattered his faith in the goodness of things and became an evil himself. In this respect Faith can be compared to Eve, for whom Adam lost his innocence.

In a few words, the story allegorises the fact that man is inherently disposed to evil and once in its grip, cannot wriggle out.

Young Goodman Brown Allegory

Young Goodman Brown Allegory

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The allegory of Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”



In Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” the characters and settings are used to show allegory. The characters and setting are used in metaphor to represent something else. The whole story of “Young Goodman Brown,” represents the journey of everyman. It’s path that everyone follows, or so Hawthorne seems to believe. The main character, Young Goodman Brown represents the sense of everyone. His last name, Brown, is a common name and therefore could be taken to mean everyone because it is so common. Young could mean someone who is innocent and inexperienced.

He is newly married and starting his new life or journey down that path we call fate. Goodman represents just that, a good man. Faith, Goodman Brown’s wife, represents just that, faith. She stands for Brown’s faith in god or a greater power than himself. “There was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices, fading into far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away, leaving the clear and silent sky above goodman Brown. But something fluttered down through the air, and caught on the branch of a tree.
The young man seized it and beheld a pink ribbon. ‘My Faith is gone! ’ cried he, after one stupefied moment. ‘There is no good on earth; and sin so but a name. Come devil! for to thee is this world given. ’ ” (Hawthorne 196) The ribbon Brown seized from the branch was one of the things Hawthorne had used to describe Faith in the beginning of the story. Brown apparently lost Faith when he lost his faith in god represented by the ribbon falling through the air.

The traveler represents the devil. 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 serpent. This of course, must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the uncertain light. ” (Hawthorne 192) The devil is like a serpent, or is represented as a serpent in the story of Genesis. The serpent is sneaky and deceiving. “ ‘Friend,’ said the other, exchanging his slow pace for a full stop, ‘having kept covenant by meeting thee here, it is my purpose now to return whence I came.
I have scruples, touching the matter thou wot’st of. ’ ‘Sayest thou so? ’ replied he of the serpent, smiling apart. ‘Let us walk on, nevertheless, reasoning as we go, and if I convince thee not, thou shalt turn back. We are little way in the forest, yet. ’ ‘Too far, too far! ’ exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk. ” (Hawthorne 192) The traveler tricked Brown into proceeding with the journey without knowing he was continuing. The traveler acted as the devil or a serpent by being sneaky and got him to continue the journey.

The setting of the dark forest represents the devil’s home. It’s a place where one would picture the devil living because of the darkness. It is a place where very few would normally travel very deep into. The forest is like sin. The farther Goodman Brown goes into the forest the more he is apt to loosing his faith. Hawthorne’s story of “Young Goodman Brown” represents the path of life and how everyone that travels down this path meets evil along the way. “ ‘My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him.
We have been a race of honest men and good Christians, since the days of the martyrs. And shall I be the first of the name Brown, that ever took this path, and kept’- ‘Such company, thou wouldst say,’ observed the elder person, interpreting his pause. ‘Good, 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. I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem.

And it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in king Phillip’s war. They were my good friends, both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path and returned merrily after midnight. I would fain be friends with you, for their sake. ’ ” (Hawthorne 192) The reference to Brown’s ancestors shows that he is not the only one who has taken this path. It shows that even the people he would never have suspected to take the same path as him actually have to his surprise.
These people are just the everyday person showing everyone will take the journey of life and all will be tempted by evil. But even though some might lose their faith, the can still get it back. This is shown in reference to where Hawthorne threw in that it might have just been a dream. “Had goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest, and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting? ” (Hawthorne 199) this only shows that even though Goodman brown was tempted by evil and may have lost his faith, he also had later gotten it back.

Young Goodman Brown Allegory

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