This essay will demonstrate the types of characters present in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” whether static or dynamic, whether flat or round, and whether protrayed through showing or telling.
R. W. B. Lewis in “The Return into Rime: Hawthorne” states: “… there is always more to the world in which Hawthorne’s characters move than any one of them can see at a glance” (77). This is especially true with such flat or two-dimensional characters as are generally found in “Young Goodman Brown.” These type characters are built on a “single idea or quality” and are presented without much “individualizing detail” (Abrams 33). Faith, of course, represents or symbolizes the theological virtue of faith; Goody Cloyse, as a catechism teacher, represents “goodness”; the unnamed fellow-traveller in the woods is symbolic of “evil.” Q. D. Leavis explains this symbolic use of characters: “The first batch of works I specified [including ‘Young Goodman Brown’] is essentially dramatic, its use of language is poetic, and it is symbolic, and richly so, as is the dramatic poet’s. . . Where the “symbol” is the thing itself, with no separable paraphrasable meaning as in an allegory: the language is directly evocative (27).
The flat character Faith is not developed like her husband; her dialogue is restricted to the opening few paragraphs. She speaks only four sentences in the entire story:
"Dearest heart," whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, "pr'ythee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in your own bed tonight. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts, that she's
afeard of herself, sometimes. Pray, tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year!"
. . . "Then God bless you!" said Faith, with the pink ribbons, "and may you find all well, when you come back."
There is enough description and dialogue regarding Faith to establish that she is a loving, devoted wife both at the beginning and end of the tale, and that she has a cheerful outlook on life (pink ribbons on her cap). Further development of Faith through the story is inferential and slight except for her presence at the coven as a new convert; her presence there as a new convert indicates a change in attitude on her part, making her a dynamic rather than a static character. Whether she converted to satanism or chose to follow the lead of her husband ("’Faith! Faith!’ cried the husband. ‘Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One!’") is not known (“Whether Faith obeyed, he knew not.”).
Goody Cloyse is a flat character like Faith. She and Faith are the only women presented in “Young Goodman Brown” by more than a passing mention. Regarding the origin of Hawthorne’s female characters, let it be said that he sometimes uses historical women: “Since three Salem women mentioned in the story, of whom two were hanged, were accused in 1692, the scene...